Butternut Squash Risotto Balls or Butternut Squash Arancini, a fantastic Italian appetizer for every party or celebration. Filled with creamy butternut squash rice, and lightly fried to perfection, these golden bites make the perfect finger food. So easy to make, and pretty quick too, these rice balls taste of Fall.
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, deep-fried 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.
What are rice balls or arancini?
Risotto balls, or the popular Italian arancini are rice balls that are deep-fried until golden and crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. The risotto is first cooked, then let to cool down before it’s shaped into balls, coated in beaten egg, and breadcrumbs, then fried.
How do you make butternut squash arancini?
As with any good risotto, patience is the key. You do need to do a bit of stiring, but it’s well worth it.
- sautee the onion first, then add the rice and cook for about one minute until it becomes transluscent
- add the butternut squash, and continue to stir for another minute before gradually adding the broth
- make sure the liquid is absorbed before adding more broth to the rice, in this way you get a creamy risotto that is cooked to perfection
- once cooked, leave the risotto to cool down completely, then use your hands to shape balls
The rice will be pretty sticky, so have a bowl of water around to wet your hands before shaping another ball, it really does the trick.
- dip the rice balls into beaten egg, then breadcrumbs and deep fry until golden
You get some delicious arancini that are super nice and crispy, and sinfully hot. I like eating them just like that, but you can also add them to a nice tomato sauce.
Can the rice balls be baked?
Yes, absolutely. Once they are coated in breadcrumbs, grease a baking tray, arrange the risotto balls, then either drizzle some oil over, or spray some cooking oil over.
Bake at 200 degrees Celsius (390 Fahreneheit) for about 20 minutes or until golden. Do make sure you shake the tray now and again to ensure even baking.
Can I use leftover risotto to make arancini?
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.
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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.