My friend Anthony Bourdain used to say: “When you travel, always try to skip airplane meals, only a few things are as exciting as arriving hungry in a new place”.
Last summer, for the very first time, Debi and I traveled through Sicily with our daughters; as they are growing up, the level of adventure, and the excitement is becoming more “adult”, as we explore places we have never been together before. I will never forget our arrival at the Palermo airport around 2pm in a super hot summer day. After a quick flight from Florence we were eager to jump on our rental car and drive straight to Scopello (one of the most beautiful places in the world), where we had reserved our little apartment in an old tuna fishing farm.
As we exited the airplane and started walking to the luggage area, we found ourselves engulfed in a cloud of hot fried air that carried along the warmest sense of welcome and homecoming. Without looking at each other, without pausing to think or discuss, we all walked straight toward a small counter at the very end of the concessions’ stand line… and like us, at least another dozen of passengers from our same flight, decided to start their Sicilian vacation by savoring a few traditional and hyper local Arancini di riso.
Common throughout Sicily, but historically connected with the cities of Palermo and Messina, Arancini are deep fried balls of saffron infused risotto with a filling of either meat sauce and peas, or mozzarella and prosciutto. As simple as it gets, as delicious as you might hope, as comforting as your grandmother’s best hugs, this recipe is incredibly easy and fairly quick to execute… well, kind of.
While tradition is always great to keep alive and pass down to new generations, I invite you to use this recipe to recycle any risotto recipe or filling you might like: last week I repurposed our zucchini and shrimp risotto recipe into a banging mid afternoon snack that went great with a couple of iced beers!