Last year, I had pumpkin risotto for the first time, and man was it good! Lord Hobo is a bar in Cambridge, MA that you’d probably walk right by and not give a second thought. But their craft beer selection is beyond amazing, and their dishes are just as unique.
So I decided to make this Pumpkin Risotto, in the spirit of fall. Risotto takes a bit of time – all the stirring and adding of the chicken stock – it’s a dish that really needs to be baby sat. So when it’s ready, you can’t WAIT to dig in! Dave and I paired it with Maple Garlic Marinated Pork Tips, which were out of this world. But the risotto just didn’t taste quite as good as I remembered. I strongly believe that thing always taste just a little bit better when you don’t have to make them yourself, but this wasn’t quite the level of delish that I experienced at Lord Hobo.
There was a lot left over, and I toiled back and forth as to whether or not I wanted to photograph and blog about it. Because I wasn’t fully supportive of it. But I didn’t want to waste it either, because it did take so much effort to make. Then the invisible lightbulb turned on and shined bright – ARANCINI BALLS!
I think the first Arancini Ball I ever ate was a frozen one from Trader Joe’s – and even that was so tasty that I wondered how I had never known about this genius concoction of cheese and risotto, rolled into a ball, and fried. I’ve never made them myself, and have heard from others that they’re a lot of work, but the work was well worth it.
Pumpkin Arancini Balls
*Adapted from Epicurious & Food Network
*yields about 16-20 arancini balls
For Pumpkin Risotto
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup grated parmesean cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
For Arancini Balls
1 cup + 1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 eggs, at room temperature, beaten
2-3 mozzarella string cheese sticks, cut into 1/2″ pieces
Vegetable oil, for frying
To prepare the risotto:
1) Bring stock and 2 cups water to a simmer in a small saucepan and keep at a bare simmer.
2) Cook onion in oil in a 2- to 2 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.
3) Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add 1 cup simmering stock and cook at a strong simmer, stirring constantly, until stock is absorbed. Continue simmering, adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes total. (There may be broth left over.)
4) Remove from heat and stir in pumpkin, cheese, and butter, stirring until butter is melted. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and be sure to let cool before preparing the arancini balls.
To prepare Arancini Balls:
1) Put 1 cup bread crumbs in a shallow dish and set aside.
2) In a medium bowl, combine 2 cups of pumpkin risotto, bread crumbs, parmesan, and eggs.
3) With damp hands, using about 2 tablespoons of the risotto mixture, form the mixture into 1 3/4-inch diameter balls.
4) Make a hole in the center of each ball and insert a piece of the mozzarella in the center, covering the hole to enclose the cheese.
5) Roll the balls in the breading to coat.
6) In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in enough oil to fill the pan about 1/3 of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 350 degrees F. (about 5 minutes).
7) In batches, fry the risotto balls, turning occasionally, until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes.
8) Drain on paper towels and serve.
I know you’re thinking ‘WOW – that’s a LOT of steps and a lot of time!’ But I swear, they’re worth every bite, especially served hot, when the cheese is still all gooey and stretchy. The perfect combination of saltiness and sweetness from the pumpkin. And you could probably experiment with the cheese as well – I just happened to have mozzarella (I am 30 going on 5 and still LOVE string cheese!) but I bet goat cheese or feta would be equally as good. And if you didn’t want a big ball of cheese right in the center, you could use a shredded version to make the cheese distribution more uniform throughout.
These would be the perfect appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner or any Fall gathering you’re heading to – and everyone will say “AUGH, these are amazing! It must have taken you hours!” – and you lie and tell them “Nahhh – it was easy”