Rice balls...a traditional Sicilian dish!!! Who doesn't love a rice ball? Of course, I have always loved rice balls but I never expected the abundance and amazing goodness of rice balls that I came upon on my visit to Sicily. There were so many different types....all different ingredients...one better than the next. The one in this picture was definitely my favorite because it reminded me of my grandmother. She stuffed lots of thing with her concoction of rice, cheese, proscuitto and spinach. Really, she would stuff everything from chickens to peppers with this mixture. And that's exactly what was inside of this rice ball. It was fantastic. As you can see, they do make them big in Sicily!! This time I am going to make a traditional rice ball. We will definitely take on the spinach one's next!!
FOR THE SAUCE I SMALL ONION CHOPPED 1 WHOLE CARROT GRATED 1 LB GROUND BEEF 1 28 OZ CAN CRUSHED TOMATOES 1 6 OZ CAN TOMATO PASTE 1 CAN BABY PEAS
FOR THE ROLLING OF THE BALLS 5 OR 6 ADDITIONAL EGGS FLOUR FOR DREDGING PANKO CRUMBS **Cheese diced into 1/2" cubes. Fontina or Mozzarella are great.
Heat 2 tblsp olive oil in a saute pan. Add the chopped onions and grated carrots and cook until soft. Add the ground beef and continue to cook until browned. Season with salt & pepper. When browned, drain fat from pan. Add the crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste. Let simmer slowly about 45 minutes uncovered. Then add the can of peas, remove from heat and let it cool.
In a medium stock pot, bring the chicken broth and 2 Tblsp olive oil to a boil. Add the rice and turn down to a simmer. Stir occasionally for about 20 minutes uncovered. Rice should be al dente. You can add more liquid if a longer cooking time is needed. When done spread the rice out on a cookie sheet to cool and dry.
When the rice has cooled completely, you can get it into a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, grated cheese, chopped proscuitto and a pinch of pepper. It is definitely easiest to use your hands here. Messy but easier than using a spoon.
All you have left to do is dice up the cheese into very small pieces.
Now you are ready to roll....woohoo!!! Set up your stations with everything you need right at hand. Your rice mixture...sauce mixture..... cubed cheese...flour...egg....panko. That is actually the order in which we will use the ingredients.
Take a spoonful of rice into your hand and make a well in the middle. You can make them as big or as small as you prefer.
Next, place a tiny spoon of the sauce and a tiny piece of cheese into the well.
Now place a tiny bit more of the rice on top and mold it all together into the shape of a ball completely covering the sauce. Here is a very important tip!!! Rinse your hands in cold water after each ball. It makes it so much easier if you start with fresh, clean hands each time.
So far so good??? Your almost there....just roll each ball into the flour...egg...then panko.
If you have someone you can call in at this step..it makes it a whole lot easier. I actually had my BFF Tracy and my mom with me today. Tracy wanted to make some for her family for Easter....so we will put her to work. And...what the heck...we will put my mom to work also. Gigi (my mom...short for great grandma) will be the fryer!! Let's roll!!
It does go quick once you get into a system. Fry them in vegetable oil just a few minutes on each side until golden brown all over.
There you go....beautiful rice balls!! Servce with the sauce on the side so people can dip in!!! We had a great time making these together today. Tracy's family and ours enjoyed them on Easter, but please don't wait for Easter. These are amazing any time of year. Eating them always brings me back to walking the streets of Sicily and seeing them everywhere....ENJOY!!