FLORENCE, Italy – If there’s a culture with as much of an affinity for the deep fryer as America, it’s the Italians.
This blog has mentioned the fried calzones, and Naples gave us a three-course fried meal (that no one regrets), but if there’s an item that seems State Fair-worthy, it’s the arancini. Arancia, the Italian word for orange, is pretty popular on menus around citrus-growing southern Italy, but don’t fool yourselves. Arancini get their name from the color of their fried exterior and their shape, not from any sort of nutritional value.
Originally from Sicily, arancini are perfectly portable and come in several varieties. The basic combination is risotto coated in breadcrumbs, stuffed with something and fried. The traditional filling is a beef ragu (a mix of meat, tomato sauce, mozzarella and sometimes peas), but prosciutto, spinach and cheese are all readily available at local stands.
Arancini are ideal for a snack or a lunch on the go. They also go for about three euro, which is nice if you’re starting to go broke near the end of your travels like we are. They either come in a ball or as a neat cone, served on wax paper or a napkin to be carried down the street or through the market. The ragu sticks to the risotto, making it a surprisingly easy street food to consume without making a mess.
It’s baffling that we’ve yet to adopt arancini in America. It’s a ball of fried starch filled with meat and cheese. Frankly, it’s amazing that we didn’t come up with that first.