This updated version of the classic Sicilian fried cheese-stuffed rice balls are coated with Panko bread crumbs, a Japanese style bread crumb that stays crunchy and crisp when fried. If you can’t find them at the grocery store you can always substitute regular bread crumbs in its place.
- 4 pieces thick-cut bacon, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 medium leek, chopped, white and pale green part only
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 3 1/2 tp 4 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- Oil for frying, (about 34-ounces or 1 liter)
- Place the diced bacon in the pan cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until the bacon fat starts to render out. Add the chopped leeks and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until the leeks start to soften. Add the rice to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, for an additional 2 minutes or until the rice starts to turn translucent. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is nearly completely absorbed by the rice. Add the chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring and cooking until the rice absorbs the stock before adding more stock. Continue adding and cooking the rice until 3 1/2 cups of stock is used. Taste the rice and if it is still too firm add the remaining 1/2 cup of stock. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let sit to cool to room temperature, about an hour.
- Once the risotto has cooled, place the Panko bread crumbs, parsley, basil, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Place the eggs in a medium bowl and beat with a fork until uniform in color. Wet your hands with water and using your fingers, scoop up about 1 tablespoon of the risotto and flatten it in to a thin disk in the middle of the palm of your hand. Place a cube of the mozzarella in the middle of the disk and make then make a fist with your hand, forming a ball of risotto around the mozzarella. Gently squeeze the risotto ball so it forms a tight ball around the cheese, forming a ball about 1-inch in diameter. Roll the ball in the beaten egg then in the herb panko crumbs. Place on a plate or a baking sheet and continue with the remaining risotto and cheese forming crumb coated balls.
- Once you’ve formed all the risotto balls, pour enough oil into the frying pan so it’s about 1/2 way up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil to 350˚F. Fry the risotto balls in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan too much, turning the balls as they fry with tongs for about 4-5 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on a wire rack on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Let cool slightly before serving.