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Provolone Piccante Arancini with Thyme and Basil Aioli : The Good Soup

Provolone Piccante Arancini with Thyme and Basil Aioli

This is the first recipe I’ve ever made from The Australian Gourmet Traveller. An unremarkable fact, perhaps, if you didn’t know that I’ve been subscribing to the Gourmet Traveller since 1997. Wow. That’s kind of embarrassing. I’ve learnt a lot from them, I think… And I LOVE reading them, but somehow the reading ends up satiating my curiosity. Or, maybe it’s because I’ve just got no good way to keep track of the recipes. Has anyone else tackled this problem with their favourite recipe mag and be willing to offer me a solution?

Regardless, there is a first time, and this is it. and MAN was it worth it. Until now, I’ve made ‘arancini’ occasionally, when I’ve had leftover risotto. They’ve been thoroughly underwhelming. These arancini are on the opposite end of the scale. They’re strangely light, as if, after biting through their crunchy coating you might float off on a risotto cloud. And the flavour of thyme and provolone (the wonderful cheese is pictured above) is fresh and pervasive, in an entirely good way.

Provolone Piccante Arancini with Thyme and Basil Aioli

Adapted (hardly) from The Gourmet Traveller‘s little Italian Cookbook that accompanied their Italian Issue, May 2011. The recipe is Joseph Vitale’s (of Bottega in Melbourne). It serves 4 to 6 people, but I found it easy to volume up and ended up using these arancini in a catering job for 100 people.
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • 200 gm arborio rice
  • 750ml hot organic chicken stock
  • 20 ml (an Australian tablespoon) finely chopped thyme
  • 50gm parmegiano reggiano, finely grated
  • 30gm salted or unsalted organic butter
  • 40gm provolone piccante, with 15gm finely grated
  • about 1-2 cups plain flour for dusting the arancini
  • 2 organic freerange eggs, lightly beaten, for coating the arancini
  • 250gm fine soft white breadcrumbs, for coating the arancini
  • 1-2L sunflower oil, for deep frying
  • aioli (the recipe I’ve linked to here is for homemade mayonnaise, to which you simply add a couple of cloves of crushed garlic to begin) with fresh basil leaves, to serve

First, warm the olive oil in a deep saucepan over a medium flame. When hot, add the onion and saute, gently, until it’s transparent and soft.

Add the rice, stir it through the onion to coat the grains in oil, and then add the stock, very gradually, stirring, keeping the rice on a low simmer, until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is ever so slightly over cooked. That’s right, over cooked. I think this is so the texture of the finished arancini is soft, and the next additions of cheese and butter (rather than being absorbed by the rice) coat the rice in a creamy sauce.

So now add the thyme, parmesan and the 15gm of finely grated provolone piccante. Stir for 2 minutes, until the rice is creamy with the additions. Check for seasoning before spreading the mixture onto a tray to cool. When cooled to room temperature, cover in clingwrap and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours, or overnight.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining provolone into tiny cubes, around 5mm in diametre. Take the cold rice and scoop up a walnut sized glob into your hand. Roll into a ball, press your finger into the centre and push one provolone cube into the hole. Roll into a ball in your palms again, and then place on a sheet of baking paper. Continue until you’ve made balls out of the rest of the mixture.

Now to coat- fill 3 shallow bowls, one each with the flour, the beaten eggs and the breadcrumbs, and set them up in that order. Take a ball, coat it in flour and dust off the excess if necessary. Then roll the ball in egg until it’s coated. Then drop it into the breadcrumbs and toss it around until, again, it’s entirely coated. Set it aside on another piece of baking paper and continue on until all the arancini are coated.

Cover with cling wrap again, and refrigerate until cold (at least 30 minutes).

Fill a deep saucepan two thirds full with the sunflower oil, and preheat on a medium flame. When some breadcrumbs sprinkled into the oil sizzle immediately, you know you’re around the right temperature. Deep fry the arancini in small batches, making sure that they steadily cook but don’t brown too quickly. They should take between 3-5 minutes to turn a deep golden colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.

Serve the arancini warm, or at room temperature, with a bowlful of aioli.

I’ve also served them as a light lunch with a salad of roasted pumpkin, garden peas and wilted kale, with aioli to accompany.


  1. The Hungry Writer
    October 9, 2011 at 7:49 am | | Reply

    Oh I wish I was closer to where you lived so I could attend your classes. I have an irrational fear of deep oil frying but the little tip about the ‘sizzling breadcrumbs’ above makes it far less scary.

  2. Kitchen Belleicious
    October 10, 2011 at 1:32 pm | | Reply

    I wish you could teach me cooking classes. I love reading your informative posts! The aioli sounds amazing and I love the arancini, even though I have never heard of them. They look like something I would fall in love with!

  3. Alex
    October 11, 2011 at 7:26 am | | Reply

    I love arancini. Although I understand what you mean, they can be exceptional disappointing when done badly. I’ll have to give this recipe ago, I’ve always used leftovers or the Ursula Ferrigno recipe from Truly Italian. Must be time to branch out.

  4. Jamie @ the unseasoned wok
    October 16, 2011 at 6:54 am | | Reply

    Oh my gosh are these deep fried risotto balls? Pardon my ignorance. These look sooo good. The roasted pumpkin salad looks great too.

  5. Glenda
    October 18, 2011 at 4:21 am | | Reply

    Just found your fabulous blog courtesy of the article in today’s “Courier Mail”. Must try this arancini recipe. I have never made them before because whenever I make risotto there is never enough left over. My family absolutely love risotto.

    As far as storing recipes go – have you hear about the website “eat your books”. You are able to store books, magazines, blogs and online recipes on your virtual bookshelf. They are still in the process of indexing many books but it may be a good place to start.

  6. Carol
    February 29, 2016 at 11:48 pm | | Reply

    Can I put some in my chicken soup?

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