Friends, wonderful cooking, a shared glass of wine. What could be better? Well, when in the company of Oregon's own Hood River-by-way-of-Calabria, Italy cooking expert and author Lucia Alviano von Flatow, it gets better indeed.
She donned her apron, and treated a group of our favorite friends to a deliciously delightful cooking class. Of course, we couldn't help but think of how her delicious, fresh and zestful creations would look perched on a platter of our hand-crafted artisan Talavera pottery.
You may not have been able to join us, but you can create your own perfect Italian Antipasti evening with the following classic Italian recipe.
It's from Lucia's cookbook, Lucia's Calabria: Southern Italian Cooking in an Oregon Orchard. We're sure once you've shared this arancini with friends and family, you'll want her book for more amazing recipes! Buon Appetito!
Note from Lucia: Arancini (Little Oranges), my youngest son Maurizio's favorite, are a Sicilian specialty but the Calabresi make them regularly and so do many other Italian local regions. Just about every Italian housewife has her own special recipe and this is mine. The Arancini can be stuffed with meat sauce and mozzarella cheese!
2 cups Arborio rice
About 6 cups hot chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of hot water with a tiny pinch of saffron
Basically, you are going to be making a simple risotto. Just melt olive oil in a large pan and add the rice. Fry it gently for a few minutes. Next add a ladleful of the hot stock, stirring it into the rice a little bit at a time, until most of the stock has been absorbed. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked and creamy (about 20-25 minutes). Add the saffron liquid mixture. Be sure you only use a tiny, tiny amount of the saffron. It's a very strong tasting herb and can overpower the flavor of your risotto. Let the mixture cool down to room temperature. Finally, add the beaten egg and parmesan cheese, mixing thoroughly with your hands. Place the risotto in the fridge and let it cool for about an hour.
1/4 ground beef
1/4 pound ground veal (optional)
1 large onion chopped finely
4 garlic cloves also chopped finely
1 small can tomato paste
2 (8 ounce) cans pureed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
10-16 small cubes mazzarello
(depending on how many rice balls you've made)
Begin frying the chopped onions and garlic in olive oil until it's golden color then add the minced meat. Then add the tomato paste and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes and cook for another 30 minutes. Season it with salt and pepper, Italian parsley and fresh basil. Let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes while the risotto is cooling in the refrigerator. Finally add the frozen peas to the sauce.
Here comes the labor of love part. Get all of you ingredients together on your work surface (close to the sink is best!). Wet your hands with water then start by picking up a handful of the rice mixture. Cup your hands to make a nice round shape. Use your index finger to dig a hole in the center of the ball, add a good tablespoon of the meat sauce and place it in the center, then add a cube of the cheese. Gently close the hole and if needed add some of the prepared risotto to cover the hole so it doesn't come apart when frying it. Having an son or daughter or friend will speed up this process by having an assembly situation. My son Fritz is extremely patient and rolled each rice ball perfectly.
2 beaten eggs
1 cup dried breadcrumbs and
1/4 cup semolina (this gives it a crunchy golden color)
Coat them with the beaten egg and then the breadcrumb/semolina mixture. Fry the Arancini in vegetable or corn oil, until golden and crispy (about 3 to 4 minutes on each side) roll them around while frying and try not to get burned-easy to do when the oil is hot. Drain the hot round balls onto a paper towel.
These delightful little goodies can be served as an appetizer or if you prefer they make a lovely meal served with a fresh green salad.
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