Inspector Montalbano’s Arancini

Arancini finished dish

Arancini finished dish

Coat_of_arms_of_SicilyInspector Montalbano is a popular fictional Sicilian police detective, created by Andrea Camilleri. The stories are set in the small town of Vigata , and, being Italian, feature food quite prominently. In the story Inspector Montelbano’s Arancini (Gli arancini di Montalbano), the famous Sicilian dish is used as a plot device. Does the inspector want to leave Sicily to be with his girlfriend in Paris, or does he want to stay and eat his housekeeper Adelina’s arancini. I won’t tell you what he decides, but you can probably guess 😉 My father is a fan of the books, and he is fond of arancini when he visits me, so I decided to recreate this recipe from the book. The main differences between Adelina’s dish, and the more well known version is that she uses béchamel sauce instead of cheese. Also the ragù is made with whole pieces of meat, not mince.

For the ragù

  • 150g of reasonably fatty beef in one piece
  • 150g of reasonably fatty pork in one piece
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • a sprig of parsley
  • a few leaves of basil
  • 250ml of passata
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of tomato purée
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the risotto

  • 500g risotto rice
  • 1 small onion
  • oil and butter to taste
  • beef stock
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g of shelled peas (use fresh or frozen depending on the season)
  • 80g of spicy salami in a single piece
  • béchamel sauce made with 250ml of milk.
  • 2 eggs
  • breadcrumbs
  • oil for deep frying (traditionally olive oil, but you can use peanut oil or similar)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Arancini Ragù ingredients

Arancini Ragù ingredients

Fry the onion and celery gently in a little oil. Add the two pieces of meat and brown them on all sides.
Add the passata and tomato purée diluted in a little hot water. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if needed. Cook slowly for at least an hour and a half, longer if possible. Add the chopped parsley and basil, and cook for a further half an hour. This sauce can also be made in advance.

Arancini Ragù cooked

Arancini Ragù cooked

Make a classic risotto following the standard recipe, but without wine or cheese. It should be quite dry.  Montalbano is quiet clear that it should be without saffron.  (senza zaffirano, pi carità!)

 Arancini cooking risotto

Arancini cooking risotto

Tip the risotto out onto a marble slab (or a large tray), let it cool a little and then mix with a little of the tomato sauce and stir in the eggs. Let it cool completely. Put it into the fridge for about half an hour.

 Arancini risotto cooling

Arancini risotto cooling

Meanwhile, cook the peas in boiling salted water. Chop the meat with a mezzaluna or a knife. Montalbano forbids the use of a food processor  (nenti frullatore, pi carità di Dio!) 🙂 Mix some of the  béchamel sauce with the peas and salami cut into small cubes. Add enough of the tomato sauce from the meat to make a fairly thick mixture.

Arancini mixed filling

Arancini mixed filling

Arancini forming

Arancini forming

Slightly dampen your hands and take some of the rice and roll it in the palm of your hand trying to make a sort of bowl. Put a spoonful of the ragù mixture in the middle. Cover with a little more rice and form it into a ball.You are aiming for about tennis ball size. Continue until you run out of rice. You probably won’t need all of the filling.

Arancini ready for coating

Arancini ready for coating

Put them in the fridge again for half an hour or so to firm up. Coat with egg, and then roll in bread crumbs.

Arancini ready for cooking

Arancini ready for cooking

Fry the arancini in hot oil (about 165°C) until they are golden brown. Drain on kitchen towels. They are best eaten hot, but are also good cold.

Arancini cooked

Arancini cooked

Stuffed cabbage leaves

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Involtini di verza. This is a good winter dish. There are many versions, but I prefer this one because the stuffing is not so heavy as it contains rice and chopped cabbage rather than all meat. It can be served as an antipasto or a second course, but it is quite substantial, so it is probably better as a second course. Serves 6

  • 1l vegetable stock
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 head of savoy cabbage
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 80g grated parmesan
  • 280g risotto rice
  • 350g sausages, skinned
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 200ml white wine

To cook

  • 50g butter
  • 2 tbsp parmesan

Remove the tough central rib from 12 cabbage leaves.

stuffed cabbage removing stalk

stuffed cabbage removing stalk

Blanch the leaves in abundant boiling water. Take 150g of the more tender centre of the cabbage and chop finely.

stuffed cabbage cooking filling

stuffed cabbage cooking filling

Melt the butter in a pan and fry the carrot, celery and onion gently for about 15 minutes. Be careful that they do not brown. Increase the heat and add the rice and “toast” for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the white wine, the sausage and the chopped cabbage. Stirring constantly wait until the liquid has been absorbed. Add a ladle of the hot stock and wait for the liquid to be absorbed. Continue using the standard risotto method until the rice is cooked. Mix in the parmesan.

stuffed cabbage filling rolls

stuffed cabbage filling rolls

Take a cabbage leaf and place a couple of tablespoons of the mixture on each one.

stuffed cabbage filled roll

stuffed cabbage filled roll

Roll the leaf up to make a compact parcel. Hide the open seam underneath.

stuffed cabbage ready for the oven

stuffed cabbage ready for the oven

Cover the base of a casserole with little olive oil and half a ladle stock. Arrange the cabbage rolls in the dish. Cover the dish with melted butter and parmesan.

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Bake at 200°C for 15 minutes, finish off under the grill for 5 minutes. Let the rolls rest for 10 minutes and the serve.

Rice Croquettes

Rice croquettes finished dish

Rice croquettes finished dish

puglia crestFrom Puglia. This is a puglian version of the more well known Sicilian dish arancini. It is very simple to make however. There are versions that use other chesses and cured meats, but this one uses the easily available (abroad I mean) salami, ham and mozzarella. Serves at least 6 as an antipasto.

  • 400g risotto rice
  • 100g sliced salami (Milanese or similar)
  • 100g sliced cooked ham
  • 200g mozzarella cut into small cubes
  • 40g grated parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • 40g buttter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A pinch of pepper
  • Bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying
Rice croquettes ingredients

Rice croquettes ingredients

Boil the rice in plenty of salted water until done, about 10 minutes. Drain and add the butter. You could substitute vegetable stock for the water if you prefer. Allow to cool completely. You can prepare it the day before if you like.

Roughly chop the salami and ham. Combine with the rice, the mozzarella, the parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and finally add the eggs and mix well.

Rice croquettes formed

Rice croquettes formed

Form the mixture into cigar shapes, about 50g each. I find it easiest to use my hands.

Rice croquettes ready to fry

Rice croquettes ready to fry

Coat them in breadcrumbs and deep fry them in hot oil until golden.

Osso bucco with risotto

Ossobucco finished dish

Ossobucco finished dish

MilanoOssibuchi con il risotto. From Milan. Veal has gone out of fashion in the UK at the moment. It never did in the Italy because they don’t use the “crate” method. Italians are more practical when it comes to food. The aversion to “white” veal has nothing to do with ethics, it doesn’t taste as nice. This is one of the most famous Italian veal dishes. In my opinion the best bit of the dish is the marrow, which I always save until the end. Serves 4.

Ossobucco finished dish

Ossobucco finished dish

  • 4 slices of veal shank with the bone in the centre (ossibuchi)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • optional: 1 small stick of celery
  • 30g butter
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Plain flour for dusting
  • Parsley
  • The zest of half a lemon
  • Dry white wine
  • A little beef stock.

For the risotto

  • 320g risotto rice
  • 1 small glass of dry white wine
  • 50g butter
  • 1 small onion
  • 1.5 litres of beef stock
  • 1 sachet of saphron
  • 4 tablespoons of grana padano
  1. Fry the onion (and the celery if used) and the whole garlic clove, over a low heat, for a few minutes in the butter until softened.  Remove the garlic before serving( if you want a stronger garlic flavour, chop the clove and fry it along with the onion).
  2. Lightly flour the veal slices and add them to the onions. Fry them on both sides until they are lightly browned. Be careful not to disturb the marrow in the centre of the bone.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the glass of wine. Let it almost completely evaporate.
  4. Add a ladle of hot stock, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 35-40 minutes until tender.
  5. Cook the risotto using the usual method, adding the saffron along with the last ladle of stock.
  6. When the veal is cooked add the chopped lemon zest, half a clove of chopped garlic(optional) and chopped parsley (gremolata) and serve on top of the risotto.

Red wine risotto

Risotto al Vino Rosso. You need to use a good, full bodied red wine – the best you can afford. The basic rule applies. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it 🙂 I used a Primitivo di Maduria , but next time I’m flush, I’ll try it with a Barolo.

Red wine risotto ingredients

Red wine risotto ingredients

Serves 4

  • 400g risotto rice
  • 2 glasses full bodied red wine
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • About 1 1/2 litres vegetable sock
  • 40g parmesan, grated
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Fry the onion in the olive oil until they start to become transparent.
  2. Add the rice and stir for few moments.
  3. Add the red wine and cook over a medium heat, stirring all the time, until the wine has been absorbed.
  4. Add a ladle of hot stock and continue cooking as per the standard risotto recipe.
  5. When the rice is cooked al dente , remove from the heat, season and stir in the butter and parmesan.
  6. Allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.
Red wine risotto

Red wine risotto

Black cuttlefish risotto

Venezia crestRisotto nero con le seppie. From Venice. This is quite a spectacular dish, but probably not to everyone’s taste. If you can’t find cuttlefish you can use squid. The tricky part is removing the ink sac when you clean them. I have to admit that I chickened out and bought a preprepared sachet. 50c well spent in my opinion. The recipe called for fish stock, but I used water as the cuttlefish has quite a strong flavour and I don’t think you’d be able to taste the difference.

Black cuttlefish risotto ingredients

Black cuttlefish risotto ingredients

Serves 4.

  • 1kg cuttlefish, cleaned and the ink sacs reserved
  • 1 litre fish stock or water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 175ml dry white wine mixed with 150ml water
  • 350g risotto rice
  • 25g butter
  • salt and pepper

  1. Cut the cuttlefish into strips or dice.
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over a low heat for a few minutes, stirring from time to time.
  3. Add the cuttlefish and season with salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt as cuttlefish can be quite salty. Cook until the pieces have turned white.
  4. Add the wine and water, cover and simmer over alow heat until tender. Timing depends on the size of the strips, but it’l probably be around 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in the rice and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  6. Add a ladle of hot stock (or water) and continue according to the standard risotto method.
  7. When the risotto is ready stir in the butter and serve.

Black risotto

Black risotto

Risi e bisi

Venezia crestIf you prepare this on April 25, you will be carrying on an ancient tradition that dates from the days of the Republic of Venice. This springtime dish of creamy rice and peas is made in Venice and its surroundings area to celebrate the feast day of its patron, Saint Mark. Almost the consistency of a soup, risi e bisi should be served as a course of its own. In the past, risi e bisi was presented on Saint Mark’s Day with much ceremony to the doge, the leader of Venice. You can streamline this dish by using small frozen peas.
Serves 6

  • 500g risotto rice
  • 700g fresh peas (unshelled weight), shelled
  • 80g butter
  • 40g pancetta, cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • parsley to taste, finely chopped
  • 60g parmesan cheese
  • stock (vegetable or chicken)
  1. Fry the onion, pancetta and parsley in half the butter. When the onions start to colour, add the peas and cook for a further 5 minutes
  2. Add a couple of ladles of hot stock and bring to the boil. Add the rice and stir.
  3. Continue in the usual way for risotto – note: use more stock than for a standard risotto. The finished dish should be quite sloppy – almost like a soup.
  4. When the rice is cooked al dente remove from the heat. Adjust salt and pepper, stir in the parmesan and the rest of the butter. Serve immediately

Giorgio Mantello used the picture above to illustrate an article on his site a cena da Giorgio. This is a translation of his comments:

I chose this image because it shows excellently  what should be the consistency of the risotto – neither too thick nor too liquid – in Venice is said to be “moeche”. which translates as soft and a little sticky. enjoy!

Tiella of potatoes, rice and mussels – Authentic recipe

Bari crestTiella di patate, riso e cozze. Tiella alla Barese. Riso patate cozze. Finally the definitive recipe! This recipe was given to me by Tiziana who is one of the best cooks in Bari (or so her friend Rosa tells me 😉 ) Many thanks Tiziana. It uses mussels which have been opened when they are still raw. My fish monger did this for me, but in the UK you’ll probably have to do this yourself. Here’s a link to show you how. Good luck 🙂
Serves 6
Tiella ingredients

Tiella ingredients

  • 1.5kg potatoes, sliced
  • 300g risotto rice, soaked in cold water
  • 1kg mussels, opened on the half shell – reserve the liquid
  • onions, sliced
  • olive oil
  • garlic, chopped
  • parsley, chopped
  • tomatoes, chopped
  • pecorino Romano, grated
  • parmesan, grated
  • salt and pepper
  1. Assemble the tiella as follows in an ovenproof dish, preferably terracotta
  2. A layer of onions drizzled with oil
  3. A layer of potatoes seasoned with garlic, tomatoes, parsley, sat and pepper, cheese. Drizzle with oil
  4. A layer of mussels seasoned with garlic and parsley. Drizzle with oil
  5. Drain the rice and distribute it over the mussels. Season with garlic, tomatoes, parsley, sat and pepper, cheese. Drizzle with oil
  6. A layer potatoes.
  7. Add the water reserved when you opened the mussels. Add water so that the final layer of potatoes is just covered
  8. Cover tightly (maybe with alumnium foil) and bake at 180°C for up to two hours. Test from time to time with a skewer.
  9. Uncover for the last 20 minutes of cooking to brown the top.
Tiella finished dish

Tiella finished dish

 

 

Tiella alla Barese

Bari crest

This is another tiella recipe from Bari. It’s not completely traditional as the mussels are not raw when added to the tiella, but if you don’t fancy opening all those mussels it’s a fair approximation. I’ll post the ‘authentic’ recipe later.

Tiella ingredients

Tiella ingredients

  • 400 g potatoes, peeeled and thinly sliced
  • 200 g risotto rice
  • 700 g mussels, cleaned
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • a handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • 200 g tomatoes, peeled, deseed and chopped
  • pecorino cheese, grated
  • pepper
  1. Boil the rice until al dente. Reserve some of the cooking liquid.
  2. Heat the mussels in a pan with a little oil and the chopped garlic. When they have opened, remove from the pan. Strain and reserve the liquid. Remove the top shell from each mussel.
  3. Assemble the tiella in a ovenproof dish. Make layers of the ingredients in the following order – potatoes, rice, onions, tomatoes, a little cheese, parsley. Repeat until all the ingredients have been used up, finishing with a layer of potatoes.
  4. Pour the liquid from the mussels over the tiella. Add some of the cooking liquid from the rice so that the level of liquid comes about two thirds of the way up the dish. Season well with pepper (not salt as the mussel liquid will be quite salty). Drizzle olive oil on top.
  5. Bake uncovered for around 35 minutes at 180C. Add a layer of mussels in the half shells, drizzle on a little more oil and return to the oven for 10 minutes.
Easy tiella alla barese

Easy tiella alla barese

Fennel and lemon risotto

Risotto ai finocchi e limone. This is a Valentina Harris recipe. Serves 6

fennel and lemon risotto ingredients

fennel and lemon risotto ingredients

  •   500 grams  fennel bulbs
  •   1 onion — peeled and finely chopped
  •   75 grams  unsalted butter
  •   500 grams  risotto rice
  •   2 tablespoons  lemon juice
  •    grated zest of one unwaxed lemon
  •    salt and pepper
  •   1.5   litres chicken or vegetable stock
  •   75 grams  freshly grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
  •   2 tablespoons  finely chopped mint or parsley — or both
  1. Take off all the hard external leaves of the fennel and trim away all the green bits. You should be left with tender, white fennel hearts.
  2. If you like a very strong flavour of fennel, add the discarded parts of the vegetable, carefully washed, to the stock.
  3. Slice the tender bulbs thinly and evenly. Fry the sliced fennel gently with half the butter and the onion until the fennel is tender, then add all the rice and stir.
  4. Add the lemon juice and stir again. Season thoroughly and continue in the usual way.
  5. At the end of cooking, stir in the rest of the butter, the lemon zest and the cheese.
  6. Cover and take off the heat, leave the rice to rest for about 4 minutes, then stir once more before transferring on to a warmed platter.
  7. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs and serve at once.
fennel and lemon risotto finished dish

fennel and lemon risotto finished dish

Smoked salmon risotto

Risotto alla salsa di salmone.

Serves 4
smoked salmon risotto ingredients

smoked salmon risotto ingredients

  • 1 1/2 litres  vegetable stock
  • 40 grams  butter
  • 1  small  onion (optional)
  • 350 grams  risotto rice
  • 1 glass  dry white wine
  • 100 grams  smoked salmon
    1. Prepare the risotto in the usual way

using half the butter.

  1. Finely chop half the salmon and coarsely chop the other half.
  2. Cream the remaining butter in a bowl and beat in the finely chopped salmon with a wooden spoon.
  3. About 2 minutes before the rice has finished cooking, stir in the butter mixture and the coarsely chopped salmon.
smoked salmon risotto finished dish

smoked salmon risotto finished dish

Basic risotto method

Risotto is an Italian dish that was originally eaten by peasants for breakfast, but which has risen in stature to become a highly regarded restaurant dish. It’s simple to make at home, but requires a bit of attention.Risotto is made from risotto rice cooked with stock. Other ingredients (such as vegetables, shellfish or meat) are then added, and the dish is usually finished off with a knob of butter and some Parmesan cheese, which is stirred through at the end of cooking.

The key to a successful risotto is the rice and the stirring. There are three main types of Italian risotto rice – arborio, carnaroli and vialone nano. Essentially they’re all starchy short-grain rices. The stock is added bit by bit to the rice and stirred frequently resulting in the classic creamy texture of a risotto. It shouldn’t be overcooked, but should still retain its characteristic al dente bite. All risotti are prepared in pretty much the same way. This page explains the standard method. Serves 4

Risotto ingredients

Risotto ingredients

  • 350g risotto rice
  • 40g butter (or olive oil depending on the recipe)
  • 1 small onion,finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic (if the recipe calls for it), finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 litres stock
  • 1 glass dry white wine

Bring the stock to a gentle boil.

risotto 1 (Medium)

Add the rice and stir until all the rice is coated with the butter.
risotto 2 (Medium)Add the wine and cook until it has been completely absorbed, stirring all the time.
risotto 3 (Medium)Add a ladle of the hot stock and stir until it has been absorbed.
risotto 4 (Medium)Keep adding the stock in this way, a ladle at a time, until the rice is cooked. It should take around 20 minutes. Test a grain of rice from time to time to see if it’s done.
risotto 6 (Medium)Remove from the heat and , if the recipe calls for it, stir in some cheese and butter. Leave to rest for a couple of minutes before serving.

Risotto finished dish

Risotto finished dish

Tiella of mussels and potatoes

Bari crestThis is another classic dish from Bari. A tiella is a terracotto cooking dish thought to have been introduced by the Spanish. The ingredients are built up layer by layer in the dish and then baked in the oven. Tiellas were at one time the evening meal of the farm workers when they came in from the fields. They were made from whatever was abundant and cheap at the time. This version uses mussels, a staple of Pulgia.  Serves 4

tiella of mussels and potatoes ingredients

  • 1kg mussels, thoroughly cleaned
  • 500g tomatoes, sliced
  • 300g potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • pecorino, grated
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

  1. Heat the mussels in a pan with a little olive oil until they open. About 5 minutes. Reserve the liquid
  2. Remove the top shell from each mussel
  3. In an oven proof dish, preferably terracotta, put a layer of  half the tomatoes, then all the onions, half the parsley and half the garlic.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle a little olive oil.
  5. Then make a layer of the sliced potatoes.
  6. Make a layer of mussels in their half shell and top with the rest of the parsley and garlic
  7. Sprinkle plenty of pecorino on top and drizzle with some more olive oil.
  8. Bake at 180 C for 35-40 minutes

tiella of mussels and potatoes finished dish 1

tiella of mussels and potatoes finished dish 2

Risotto with clams

 

I had quite a few clams left over from the previous recipe, so I had a look around and came up with this recipe. It has very few ingredients, and allows the flavour of the clams to shine through.  Click here for the basic risotto method. Serves 6

risotto with clams ingredients

risotto with clams ingredients

  •   600 grams risotto rice
  •   2 kilograms clams — scrubbed
  •   2 tablespoons olive oil
  •   3 tablespoons butter
  •   3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  1. Put the clams into a saucepan and cover with water
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer until the clams open.
  3. Remove the clams and reserve the water.
  4. Remove the meat from the clams, reserving a few for decoration.
  5. Add the butter and oil to a frying pan and fry the clam meat and parsley for a couple of minutes.
  6. Add the rice and stir fry until the rice starts to turn transparent
  7. Add a little of the cooking liquid and wait for it to be absorbed, stirring all the time.
  8. Keep adding the cooking liquid, little by little, until the rice is cooked.

risotto with clams ingredients

risotto with clams ingredients

 

Radicchio risotto

This is another dish from the north. I think the last time I cooked it was more than ten years ago when my brother came to visit. Radicchio is a little bitter, but the harsh flavours mellow into a great, creamy risotto.

radicchio risotto ingredients

radicchio risotto ingredients

Serves 4

  • 160 grams  radicchio di treviso
  • 320 grams  risotto rice – pref Vialone Nano
  • olive oil
  • 30 grams onion – about 1/2 a small one — finely chopped
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • knob of butter
  • 50     grams  parmesan cheese — grated
  1. Wash the radicchio and cut into 1cm strips
  2. Fry the onion in plenty of olive oil for a few minutes
  3. Add the radicchio and fry until it has wilted
  4. Add the rice and continue to cook the risotto using the standard method.
  5. Remove from the heat, add the butter and cheese, and serve
radicchio risotto finished dish

radicchio risotto finished dish