Traditional Italian arancini recipes usually start with slow-cooked risotto, which you then have to form into balls and deep-fry. We’ve simplified the process by developing an easy risotto that you add all of the broth to at once, so you can skip the constant stirring of the classic method. Then we mix in sautéed kale and fresh goat cheese, form the chilled risotto into little patties, dredge them in panko, and pan-fry until crispy. The final dollop of our easy roasted red pepper sauce makes these risotto cakes an elegant starter for any cocktail party.
What to buy: Panko is coarse Japanese-style breadcrumbs. It’s available in the international section of most supermarkets.
Game plan: The risotto can be made up to 1 day ahead, cooled to room temperature, covered, and refrigerated until ready to form into patties and fry.
- 1Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the kale and water, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and no liquid remains, about 4 minutes. Remove to a cutting board.
- 2Wipe out the saucepan with paper towels. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
- 3Add the rice and measured salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the rice starts to crackle, about 1 minute. Stir in the wine and let simmer, stirring often, until completely absorbed, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- 4Add the broth, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice has absorbed the broth and is cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop the reserved kale and set it aside on the cutting board.
- 5When the rice is done, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the reserved kale and the goat cheese until evenly combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Remove to a large bowl and let sit until cooled to room temperature, about 40 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.
For the sauce:
- 1Just before frying the cakes, pat the peppers very dry with paper towels and place them in a blender.
- 2Add the remaining measured ingredients, season with salt and pepper, and blend until smooth; set aside.
For frying the cakes:
- 1Place the eggs in a shallow dish, season with salt, and beat with a fork until broken up; set aside. Place the panko in a second shallow dish; set aside.
- 2Divide the chilled risotto into 24 portions (about 2 tablespoons per portion) and place on a baking sheet (the portions don’t need to be perfectly formed).
- 3Have a small bowl of water ready for moistening your hands as needed to prevent sticking while forming the patties. Form each risotto portion into a 1-1/2-inch patty and return them to the baking sheet.
- 4Working with 1 risotto cake at a time, coat it with the eggs, letting any excess drip off, then coat it evenly with the panko, pressing gently so the breadcrumbs adhere. Return it to the baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining cakes.
- 5Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking (about 350°F on a deep-frying/candy thermometer), about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 250°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Fit a wire rack over a second baking sheet; set aside.
- 6When the oil is ready, add 8 of the risotto cakes and fry until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue cooking, adjusting the heat as necessary, until golden brown and heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove to the wire rack, season with salt, and place in the oven. Repeat with the remaining cakes.
- 7When ready to serve, top each cake with about 1/2 teaspoon of the red pepper sauce and serve immediately.