Pea & Pancetta Arancini

Pea & Pancetta Arancini

  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 70 minutes
  • Servings: 10 to 12

Sicilian in origin, arancini are deep-fried balls of rice with a savoury filling. Here, peas give the crisp croquettes a springtime flourish, while pancetta and mozzarella cheese lend salty richness. Dip these arancini in Meyer lemon aioli, sip a glass of Prosecco and transport yourself to the coast of Italy. Be sure to chill the risotto before forming the rice balls—this will help them to hold together in the hot oil.


For the Meyer lemon aioli:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) canola oil
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon

For the risotto:

  • 6 1/2 to 8 cups (1.6 to 2 l) chicken stock (you may not need all of it)
  • 8 oz. (250 g) pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups (14 oz./440 g) Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) white wine
  • 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) (2 oz./60 g) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz./235 g) frozen peas, thawed

To assemble:

  • Canola oil as needed
  • 3 oz. (90 g) low-moisture mozzarella cheese, cut or torn into 1/4-inch (6-mm) pieces
  • 2 cups (3 oz./90 g) panko
  • 3/4 cup (3 oz./90 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt


  • To make the aioli, in a food processor, combine the garlic and a big pinch of salt and pulse several times until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the egg and egg yolk and pulse to combine. With the machine running, slowly add a few drops of the canola oil, then follow with a slow and steady stream of oil. Continue to blend until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the lemon zest and juice, and adjust the seasoning with salt. Set aside at room temperature for up to 1 hour; if making in advance, refrigerate the aioli, then remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving.
  • Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  • To make the risotto, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the stock to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and keep the stock warm.
  • Meanwhile, in a large essential pan or sauté pan over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel–lined plate. Set aside.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the shallots to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are slightly translucent, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes.
  • Begin adding the warm stock 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. Wait until it is almost completely absorbed before adding more. When the rice is tender yet still slightly firm to the bite, after about 20 minutes, add the Parmesan, butter and cream and cook, stirring, until the risotto is creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pancetta, lemon zest and peas and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer the risotto to the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
  • Lightly grease another baking sheet, then lightly grease your hands with canola oil to prevent the risotto from sticking. Scoop about 1/4 cup (1 1/4 oz./40 g) risotto into your hands and press down to form a patty about 2 1/2 inches (6 cm) in diameter. Place 3 pieces of the mozzarella in the center of the patty, then carefully shape into a ball so that the risotto seals in the cheese. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining risotto and mozzarella. Freeze the balls until firm, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a food processor, process the panko until finely ground. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Place the flour in a second shallow bowl and the beaten eggs in a third shallow bowl. Working with 1 rice ball at a time, lightly roll in the flour, tapping off the excess. Dip into the eggs, letting the excess drip off, and then roll in the panko to coat evenly. Return the rice balls to the baking sheet and freeze for 5 minutes.
  • In a Dutch oven or a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, pour in canola oil to a depth of 3 inches (7.5 cm) and heat to 350°F (180°C) on a deep-frying thermometer. Line a plate with paper towels.
  • Working in batches, add the rice balls to the hot oil and fry until deep golden and heated through, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a spider or a slotted spoon, transfer the arancini to the paper towel–lined plate and season lightly with salt. Serve warm with the Meyer lemon aioli. Serves 10 to 12.
  • Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen

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