Sweet Basil’s Risotto Ball Stall


I visited Spitalfields market on a Sunday morning (it was in the afternoon, but seen as I had been awake only a few hours I class it as morning) due to my overwhelming hunger and over-whinging stomach, I was greatly appreciative of the small stall that had been temporarily constructed outside the Italian restaurant, Sweet Basil, serving up delicious Arancini and pizza. I opted for the former,  a delicious risotto ball, fried to give a crisp outer crumb, stuffed with bolognaise sauce and gooey mozzarella… so here’s how I made it…

If you are making a bolognese sauce there is no point in making enough for the Arancini alone as they only need a small dollop, so make a batch as you would do normally and take what you need from it before perhaps freezing the rest for another day. I’m going to presume that everyone reading this knows already how to make bolognese so there’s little point putting the recipe up.

This makes 2 large balls or 3 smaller ones.

¾ cup of alborio or risotto rice

Knob of butter

½ onion finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, crushed

about 1 Pint stock (chicken or vegetable)

4 tbsp of your bolognese sauce

¼ ball of mozzarella

Handful of polenta or fine breadcrumbs for a crispy crust to the arancini

A lot of vegetable oil for deep-frying


After making your Bolognese sauce, take out about 4 tbsp, placing on a sheet of cling film and wrap up into a firm sausage. Place this in the freezer whilst you make your risotto as it will make the stuffing part a lot easier.

To make a simple risotto gently fry the onion and garlic in a little butter on a low heat for a few minutes to soften, then add the rice turning up the heat for about 30 seconds for the rice to toast a little, then add the stock ladle full at a time stirring as you do whilst the rice slowly absorbs it as it cooks. I’d advise to make the risotto to a slightly more stodgy consistency than usual as this will help the risotto balls hold together more firmly. Set aside from the heat and if you are in a rush onto a baking sheet to cool quicker.

Whilst you are waiting for the risotto to cool prepare you mozzarella by cutting into about 1x2cm chunks, and place the polenta in a bowl ready for coating the balls.

Once your rice is cool enough you can start assembling into balls, take the Bolognese out of the freezer and cut into about 2cm rounds. This is the messy bit…and you’ve just got to get stuck in with your hands! Take a good handful of the risotto, compressing into a tight ball, then make a bit of a well in the middle with the outside being quite well-formed. Poke the mozzarella and Bolognese into the well as deep as you can without them coming out of the bottom or side, if you got some space put a little more in. Now grab about a desert spoon size of the risotto and put on the top like a lid, completing the ball into its well deserved round shape. 

Arancini assembled and ready for cooking, fill a deep pan with the vegetable oil, and bring up to a high temperature. If you have a spare grain of rice around drop it into the oil to see if its hot enough, i.e. comes to the surface and bubbles. once that happens you are ready to deep fry. Depending on the size of the pan, place 1 or 2 arancini in at a time using a large spoon,  have a plate with kitchen roll on at the ready, and once the balls are nice and golden transfer them on to the plate to drain excess oil.

Now they’re ready to be enjoyed, delicious as a snack on their own or serve with a side salad and a little roast tomato sauce as a tasty starter.


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