Arancini di Riso Siciliani – Sicilian Rice Balls
Arancine (or arancini) are the best known Sicilian street food in Italy and in the world.
History of the Sicilian stuffed rice balls
The most widespread theory starts from an analysis of their ingredients traced back to the High Middle Ages, during the Arab occupation (from the ninth to 11th century AD) that played a large part in influencing history and customs — including food — of Trinacria (present-day Sicily).
The Arabs were responsible for introducing spiced rice, flavored with saffron and served on a large plate placed in the center of the table.
It was accompanied by meat and vegetables, and diners served themselves by taking some rice with their hands and eating it with the accompanying food.
Subsequently, as people travelled around, single portions of rice timballos was quick. The ragù filling is traced back to Norman domination, while it seems that the breading was made during the time of Frederick II of Swabia, when he was looking for a way to bring the dish with him on hunting trips. Thanks to the breading and frying, the rice and its filling were perfectly transportable.
The Arancina festival occurs in Palermo and other parts of Sicily on December 13, the day of Saint Lucia, during which bread and pasta are not consumed, but arancine, panelle, and cuccìa (boiled wheat soup) are eaten and seasoned with extra-virgin olive oil.
If the origins of arancine are uncertain, the derivation of the name is certain: the first arancine, stuffed with ragu and peas, had the round shape and golden color of an orange.
Over time the fillings have differed, and with them also the shapes, in order to distinguish one filling from another: those with meat sauce remain round (in Catania, however, they have a conical shape, to remember Etna), while those with butter, stuffed with mozzarella, cooked ham, and bechamel, are oval.
These are the two classic flavors, to which the inventiveness and traditions of various cities have added others: in Catania there are those alla Norma with fried eggplant, tomato sauce, and salted ricotta and those with pistachios from the nearby Bronte; in the Messina area there are even about thirty variants, which include Sicilian salmon.
In Palermo on the day of Saint Lucia, a sweet version is also prepared, stuffed with gianduia cream (or with chocolate, as happens in Modica) and sprinkled with icing sugar.
In western Sicily, the rice of the arancine is dyed with saffron, while in the eastern part of the island, the golden color comes from slightly cheaper tomato sauce.
Our versions at Enzee's Brockenhurst are inspired by our traditional home cooking and local flavours here in the New Forest.