These butternut squash risotto balls, the Italian arancini, are a great choice when it comes to easy appetizers for parties. They make a nice, mess-free finger food to please even fussy tummies.
It’s what l call the 2 in 1 food, comfort food at its best, risotto, which gets shaped into balls and coated into golden crispy breadcrumbs. You can either enjoy it as a butternut squash risotto or take it to the very next level, rice balls.
Creamy risotto is a dish many people love. It’s fairly simple to make, unlike the popular belief that it’s such a hassle making it. Yes and no, l would say. Indeed, the risotto is meant to have a certain creamy texture, which can be achieved by using the right cooking technique, but it’s nothing even a beginner can’t do. It certainly uses more liquid than you usually use when boiling plain rice, for example. It;s a rather 1 part rice, 4 parts liquid, and arborio rice is the best for making risotto.
Butternut squash is so versatile, and its sweet taste makes it a favourite with kids. So these balls should go down a treat with the whole family. The only thing l don’t like about butternut squash is peeling and cutting it. Man, that’s a job and a half. Even when l use a good vegetable peeler l still struggle. I can only remove a tiny little bit of skin at a time, and once that’s off, chopping it is another struggle. How can it be so hard to chop? No idea.
Anyway, if you decide to abandon the battle with peeling and cutting butternut squash, sweet potatoes or pumpkins are the next best thing, texture and colour wise. Although l’m not too sure whether they are any easier to peel/chop. Probably not. But the three of them are favourite in Autumn, so lots of cooking with them.
Anyway, just because butternut squash is a favourite in the Fall season, doesn’t mean you have to treat the butternut squash risotto balls as seasonal goodies. Not at all, they are great all year round. After all, there’s always a good enough reason to throw a party. And that’s when they come in handy. You can either make them from scratch, or, if you happen to have leftover risotto, add some cooked squash and make the balls. It certainly doesn’t have to cook at the same time,but it that does save pans and time.
You know me, l’m all about simplicity, and if l can make my life in the kitchen easier, l’ll always go for it. The only advantage of cooking the squash separately would be that amazing sweet taste it gets when baking, rather than boiling. The natural sugar found in the butternut squash caramelises during the baking process, so the squash gets a completely different texture and taste. But that’s up to you.
One tip when you shape the risotto into balls, since it’s pretty sticky, it does tend to stick to your hands, so try and wash and dry your hands after each ball. Once the ball gets coated with egg, it’s a lot easier to manage and give a perfectly round shape. Coat it with breadcrumbs after and refrigerate for half an hour or so before frying. And there you go, an appetizer to impress the crowd. They are great for Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve party, birthday celebrations, or just a nice treat for a family gathering.
I mean, making posh appetizers shouldn’t just be for special occasions. Make every day special, and your family will love it. Especially if you don’t always have time for cooking from scratch. I also have this delicious Risotto with chicken and peas, if you need more inspiration for cooking with rice. And even that one can be made into rice balls, why not. Yummy, yum!
Butternut squash risotto balls, or the Italian arancini, the perfect appetizer for Thanksgiving, New Year;s Eve party or everyday celebrations. Cooked rice shaped into balls and coated in golden crispy breadcrumbs. That's yummy!
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 4 cups vegetable stock/broth
- 1 cup butternut squash, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 tsp salt
- a pinch of black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sage, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- 1 egg
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 small onion
- 1 tbsp olive oil or butter
- vegetable oil for frying
In a pan, add the butter or olive oil and fry the finely chopped onion until soft.
Wash the rice with plenty of cold water until the water runs clear.
Add the rice to the pan and stir gently for 1 minute.
Stir in the butternut squash and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add one ladleful of the vegetable stock at a time and let it cook until the stock is absorbed, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed completely and the rice and squash are cooked.
Season well with salt and pepper, add the sage and parmesan cheese.
Remove the pan from the heat and cover it with a lid for 10 minutes. This will help release all the flavours.
Leave to cool completely, then whisk the egg in a bowl with a pinch of salt.
Use your hands to shape the risotto into balls, coat them with the egg mixture, then coat in breadcrumbs.
Refrigerate the balls for at least 30 minutes, then deep-fry.
Remove the balls from the frying pan and transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.
Serve warm or cold.
I’m bringing this recipe to Inspire me Monday #143.