Arancini – the decadence of deep-fried risotto

Arancini, made from deep-fried leftover risotto, beans and spicy pulled pork, is a decadent treat.
Photo: Tim O’Connor

By Tim O’Connor

Beans and rice are a staple in many countries around the world, and I want to push them into new territory.

I found a road map to beans-and-rice nirvana by leafing through my past columns for the Glebe Report, just as I like to imagine all you faithful readers doing with all my columns that you’ve clipped and saved. (Just let me have my fantasy.) Let’s look back to columns about pulled pork, and, first up, last month’s take on risotto.

What we’re making this time is arancini, that Italian staple and the single greatest thing to do with leftover risotto — and, in this case, leftover Latin-style pulled pork. You’ll want about one good handful of cold risotto per arancini ball to wrap around the delicious pork hidden inside.

Here come the beans. We’ll use kidney beans, either canned or, if you’re ambitious, rehydrated from dry. Simmer in coconut milk and purée them. I drop a scotch bonnet or habanero in there, but I remove it eventually so don’t get scared. It’s there just long enough to give the beans a bit of bite.

This makes a creamy, bright purple sauce to put on the bottom of your plate, where it brings us south of the equator with its mmm-mmm tastes.

Now we look back to my column on making Latin-style pulled pork, or cochinita pibil, (“Cancun Taco,” Glebe Report, October 2022), which we cook with tomatoes. This is best done before you make the arancini, perhaps the day before or early in the afternoon, as there’s nothing else to do now that it’s freezing outside.

When everything is ready to assemble, you put a dollop of the spicy pork in your handful of rice and cover completely with the rice. You want it to be about the size of a tennis ball or a medium-sized Christmas decoration. I don’t advise hanging arancini balls on your tree but, hey, you do you.

Next, dredge the ball in the flour, egg wash (repeat) and panko. Once assembled, we set up a Creuset or other enamelled deep pan and fry the balls like we did when we made fried chicken last year.

I suppose you can use an air fryer to cook the arancini. I prefer to cook in oil because there’s something so beautiful, something so Italian mom, about getting out the old Creuset and filling it with oil.

The fact is, I have an air fryer that I use for all kinds of things. I just don’t use it for frying, but that’s because I’m weird. As I said, you do you.



Simmer canned or rehydrated kidney beans in coconut milk (ratio 1:2, so 1 cup of beans to 2 cups coconut milk) with habanero for 10 minutes. Remove habanero and then purée.

Dredge formed arancini in flour, then egg wash, then in flour again and back into egg wash (this is to make sure the rice doesn’t flake), and then roll in panko.

Put enough canola oil to cover a third to half of the arancini in a shallow pan or Dutch oven. When oil is ready (145C or when bubbles appear around a wooden spoon in pan) cook arancini 4 to 6 minutes per side, then an additional 8 minutes in a 350F oven.


Tim O’Connor grew up in the Glebe and is head chef at Flora Hall Brewing.

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