Article featured image
Yum
Photo: Frankie Frankeny
Chef, cookbook author, restaurateur, and winemaker—there's not a lot of the Napa Valley culinary lifestyle scene untouched by Michael Chiarello. He ties together his varied interests in a lifestyle brand called NapaStyle.

Chef, cookbook author, restaurateur, and winemaker—there's not a lot of the Napa Valley culinary lifestyle scene untouched by Michael Chiarello. He ties together his varied interests in a lifestyle brand called NapaStyle. From his iconic Tra Vigne restaurant in the 1980s to his current Bottega, he has helped define wine country cuisine.

Today, Chiarello shares a challenging yet highly rewarding pesto arancini recipe that happens to be a great way to put leftover risotto to use. Take it away, Chef…

Arancini, or rice balls filled with melting cheese, are for leftover risotto days. I never make the rice from scratch when I’m making arancini at home. If you don’t have leftover risotto, you can make these balls from cooked Arborio rice, but be sure to add a teaspoon or two of salt while the rice cooks. (Honestly, you are better off making a big pot of risotto and then making arancini the next day.)

Arancini remind me of my friend Mariano Orlando. He always made arancini the Sicilian way, his rice balls the size of oranges. We talked once about arancini and he kept saying in Italian, “telephone wire,” making a motion with his hands as if to stretch a length of cord. “What are you saying?” I asked him. “Why are you talking about telephone wire?” The cheese, Mariano said, should stretch like a telephone wire when you take a bite from a perfect arancini and pull it away from your lips.

Our arancini don’t have that same telephone wire of cheese; we use a little less cheese in the middle and a lot more cheese in the risotto. You can add more cheese to the middle if you want to go for the full telefono filo effect.

This is a multi-part recipe. You will also need to complete the pesto recipe with blanched basil and the Food Republic Best Basic Risotto recipe. Then put them all together to make these cheesy balls.