I’ve been meaning to make arancini (breaded risotto balls) for aaages, but I never have any leftover risotto to use up – it’s so good, it just gets eaten (whoops). And making a risotto from scratch for the sole purpose of making arancini always seems a bit of a faff, definitely not the sort of thing I can be bothered to do regularly.
Then inspiration struck!
I use these trays of microwaveable Veetee rice all the time (I actually can’t remember the last time I cooked rice from scratch), so I thought I’d experiment with using them to make something that resembles arancini – but is much quicker to make.
These crispy rice balls are made with roasted aubergine and chopped chives, and they’re stuffed with ooey, gooey mozzarella cheese. The crispy breadcrumbs are just the icing on the cake (uhh, the coating on the rice ball…?).
Plus, this version is baked not fried, so the mozzarella is toootally okay!
You only need a few ingredients. Just roast the aubergines for a while, then mash the flesh and mix it with the pre-cooked rice, chives, and an egg. Shape the mixture into little balls, with a piece of mozzarella in the middle, then roll them in breadcrumbs (you don’t even need any flour or extra egg, these really are faff-free). Then you can just bake them until the breadcrumbs are nice and crispy, and the mozzarella in the middle is gooey.
When you tear these babies apart, the cheese that oozes out is enough to make you swoon.
Crispy breadcrumbs, melty cheese and the soft aubergine and rice… they’re little balls of heaven.
I experimented with making some slightly larger rice balls and some smaller ones, and I think the smaller ones worked better – they were neater, and held together more tightly. So I’d aim to make around 10-12 balls from this recipe. Also, don’t over-stuff them – one small dice of mozzarella is all you need, otherwise the cheese will find a way out and explode all over your baking tray (who me?).
Using the pre-cooked Veetee rice definitely makes these little rice balls much quicker to make than ‘proper’ arancini. I’m already dreaming up some variations and different flavour combinations! Any ideas?
Mozzarella-stuffed aubergine and rice balls
- 2 medium aubergines
- 300 g cooked rice (~ 1 1/2 cups)
- Small bunch chives, chopped
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Black pepper
- tbsp ~6 dried breadcrumbs
- 100 g fresh mozzarella (1 small ball), cut into 1.5cm dice
- Spray oil
- Place the aubergines on a baking tray, and prick the skin a few times with a fork. Bake at 200°C (Gas Mark 6 / 400°F) for around an hour, until soft. Leave the oven on.
- When the aubergines are soft, cut then in half lengthwise, and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Scoop the flesh from the skin with a spoon, and mash the flesh thoroughly with a fork (or chop it thoroughly with a knife, if easier). Add the mashed flesh to a large bowl (discard the skins).
- If using Veetee instant rice, cook it for a couple of minutes in the microwave to soften it up, then add it to the bowl with the aubergine. Add the chopped chives, beaten egg, and a generous amount of salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Mash the rice a little to help the mixture to stick together.
- Lightly grease a baking tray, and spread the breadcrumbs out on a small plate.
- With clean hands, take a small amount of the rice mixture (maybe 3/4 of a tablespoon or so), and press it into the palm of your hand. Place a small piece of mozzarella on top, and then some more of the rice mixture. Shape into a ball surrounding the mozzarella, and squeeze tightly to help it to hold together.
- Roll the ball in the breadcrumbs, and place on the baking tray while you repeat with the remaining ingredients - aim to make around 10-12 balls in total.
- When you have used up all of the rice mixture and mozzarella, spray the rice balls lightly with oil, and bake for around 30 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and crispy.
Note: nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for 1 rice ball.