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Next up in the Cameron Hughes winter wine pairings was this gorgeous Zinfandel from Lodi, California. Risotto was on the table as a possible pairing, but we decided to have some fun with it. Arancini are deep fried balls of Risotto stuffed with cheese. They are common in Italy as street food and go fantastic with wine. Lot 381 has some great jammy and pepper tastes so we constructed the flavors of the arancini to bring out and match those characteristics.

A classic mushroom risotto was the base for our arancini, but we added in some red pepper flakes to bring the heat level up. Using fresh mozzarella as our cheese would bring a perfect saltiness to the bite that would compliment the pepper taste in the wine. And to compliment the fried risotto, a simple roasted bell pepper sauce was constructed, adding a nice amount of smoke and sweetness to the dish. Once fried, the arancini dissipated quickly! I encourage you to make some risotto and try out this recipe!


In a food processor or blender, place the peeled, roasted bell pepper in with a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Puree until pepper is completely blended. Set aside and save for service.

In large skillet over medium heat, gently toast aborio rice, about one minute. Add in white wine and sautee rice until wine is almost evaporated. Add in enough chicken stock to completely cover rice. Cook over medium to low heat stirring occasionally. Once chicken stock has been absorbed by rice, repeat steps by adding chicken stock to cover rice and stirring occasionally. After third round of chicken stock, add in mushrooms and arugula, sautéing with the rice and chicken stock. Cook risotto until al dente. Remove from heat and let cool for 2 hours.

Once risotto has cooled, set up a breading station. Place flour in a wide shallow bowl or plate, scramble eggs and place into a shallow bowl, and place bread crumbs into a sheet pan or plate. You should have 3 separate plates in order before you start making the Arancini. With the cooled risotto, take a generous handful and pat flat, take 2 pieces of the diced mozzarella and place in the center of the rice patty in your hand. Form a ball around the mozzarella with your hands. Should be just smaller than a baseball. Once the ball is made solid, dredge the entire ball in flour, then move to the egg wash, coat with the eggs, then finally coat with breadcrumbs. The result should be a perfectly coated rice ball. Set on a plate and continue. Once all the arancini are breaded, place into the fridge for 30 minutes to let set.

In a deep pan, or cast iron, heat 3 cups of vegetable oil to 350*.

Gently drop aranicini into oil. Flipping them every 1-2 minutes until golden brown all the way around. Total cooking time is roughly 4-5 minutes. Remove to a cookie sheet to drain excess oil.

Serve Arancini on top of generous spoonful of Roasted pepper sauce made earlier.

Yield — 6 to 8 Arancinis.