2 cups low-sodium canned chicken broth or home made chicken stock (see link)
1/8 teaspoon saffron powder or turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup short-grain rice, preferably Arborio
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated provolone cheese
24 (1/2-inch) cubes fresh or regular mozzarella cheese, about 2 ounces
1 3/4 cups Italian bread crumbs (see link)
3 eggs, beaten
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
1. In a medium saucepan bring chicken broth, saffron or turmeric, salt and pepper to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes for short grain pearl rice or 20 minutes for Arborio, or until rice absorbs liquid.
2. Stir in butter, Parmesan, Asiago and provolone cheeses; mixture will be thick and sticky. Cool mixture to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
3. To assemble rice balls, line up in the following order: A medium bowl of cold water, chilled rice mixture, mozzarella cubes, a bowl with half the breadcrumbs, a bowl with the beaten eggs, and a bowl with the remaining breadcrumbs. Moisten your hands with some cold water, shaking off excess. Place 1 1/2 tablespoons rice mixture in the palm of your hand, and make a deep indentation in it with your fingertip to make a pocket. Put a cube of mozzarella cheese into pocket and fold rice over filling. Using both hands, roll rice into tightly packed ball. Roll ball in first bowl of breadcrumbs, then in eggs, then in second bowl of breadcrumbs. Place ball on baking sheet; repeat until you have used all the rice.
4. Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat oven to 200 degrees F. In a deep fryer or heavy deep saucepan heat 4-6 inches of oil over medium heat to 350 degrees F. (If you don’t have a candy or deep-fat-frying thermometer, drop a 1-inch cube of bread into the oil when you think it is hot enough; if it turns golden-brown in 1 minute, the oil is ready.) Deep-fry 2-3 rice balls at a time until golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels or a piece of brown paper bag and then transfer to oven while you cook remaining rice balls. Serve hot; leftover cooked rice balls can be frozen up to 2 months and reheated on a baking sheet in a 400-degree F. oven for 30-20 minutes.
You can make these beloved Sicilian creations a day ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to fry; or, freeze them on a baking sheet, transfer them to a self-sealing freezer bag for up to 2 months, and thaw them overnight before frying. You can also use this recipe as a blueprint for a meat-stuffed variation: Substitute 6 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese for the combination of grated cheeses below. Make a filling of � cup Bolognese-style meat sauce and � cup thawed frozen peas; stuff each ball with 1 teaspoon of meat filling and a cube of mozzarella as described in Step 3, then proceed as directed in Step 4 below. “Arancine” means “little oranges,” an apt description of the cooked spheres.