Arancini , derived from the Italian for ‘little orange’, are crisp fried balls of creamy risotto from Sicily. Traditionally stuffed with a little ragù, in this recipe they are filled with roast squash and gorgonzola. Making arancini is a bit of a fiddly, messy business, but worth it for such a delicious combination of crunchy exterior and creamy cheesy squidge inside. My best advice is to start the rolling and coating process with a clear and organised worktop, and to stop when your hands are a total mess – wash and dry them, then continue!
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6. Soak the saffron threads in 1 tablespoon of boiling water. Place the butternut squash in a roasting tin with 2 tablespoons olive oil, season lightly and cook for 20–25 minutes, until soft.
Place the remaining oil and half the butter in a heavy-based pan and set over a medium heat. As the butter melts, tip in the onion, reduce the heat to as low as possible and allow to cook gently for about 20 minutes, until soft but not coloured.
Increase the heat to medium, stir through the garlic and fry for just a minute before adding in the rice. Stir fry for a couple of minutes until the grains start to turn translucent, then pour in the wine, if using, or extra stock. Stir frequently over a medium heat until the liquid is almost absorbed, then pour in about a third of the stock, along with the saffron water, and keep cooking and stirring for around 5–8 minutes until the liquid is almost absorbed. Add another third of the stock and repeat, then add the remaining stock, stirring regularly until it has absorbed and the rice is just tender. Turn off the heat and stir through the rest of the butter and the Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside to cool – spreading it out on a tray will speed this up considerably.
Roughly mash the roasted squash on a chopping board, then divide it into 12 equal portions. Flatten each portion out to a disc, then place a cube of gorgonzola in the centre, before covering it over by drawing up the squash around the sides.
Place the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in separate bowls. Clear the worktop and set up a production line: the risotto, followed by the squash filling, the bowl of flour, bowl of egg, bowl of breadcrumbs and finally a clean plate to put the finished arancini on.
Take a generous tablespoon of risotto, or alternatively weigh the cooked risotto and divide it by 12 to give you equal portions: it’s extra work, but worth it. Roll the first piece of risotto into a ball in your palms, pressing it firmly together. Then flatten the ball out and add a ball of squash filling to the middle, drawing up the sides of the risotto to completely enclose it as a sphere. Drop the ball into the bowl of flour and roll it gently until coated all over. Then transfer it to the bowl of egg, rolling again until coated, before finally dropping and rolling it in the bowl of breadcrumbs. Set aside on the clean plate and repeat for the other 11 arancini .
Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer to 170°C/340°F. Fry the arancini in batches of 3 or 4 for about 5 minutes, until crisp and golden.
Feel free to experiment with different fillings. You could try: •Leftover bolognese sauce.
•A mixture of ham and mozzarella.
•Capers and sundried tomatoes.