Arancini Calls for Sicilian Wine – Porto del Vento

Porta del Venta perricone Sicilian wine

Arancini are deep-fried or baked rice balls stuffed with yum. You make them with leftover risotto, which has to be one of the most popular, signature Italian dishes after pizza. And the best way to enjoy arancini is with a glass of Sicilian wine!

Reputedly a great Sicilian street food, the Arabs occupying Sicily served bowls of rice and saffron, and other vegetables and meats way back when. At some point they made the rice into balls for easy transport. The crunchy coating and optional stuffing came later.

We hoped to get to Sicily this year to see for our selves but the trip is on hold for now.

In spite of this delay, leftover risotto doesn’t wait. I make it often and always larger batches because why not have leftover to make arancini?!?

You’ll notice I say ‘fried’ or ‘baked’ above. I often look at options to lighten things up without reducing flavor. Although nothing can replace the unctuousness of fried food, this baked arancini version (recipe below) is pretty darn good. You can stuff them too which elevates the flavor even more.

arancini

Baked on top, fried below. Arancini are round (arancini translates to little orange), or oval shaped as in these photos.

Cooking method aside, the most important thing is to enjoy arancini with Sicilian wine!

Sicily has one DOCG, 23 DOCs and seven IGTs. Click here for a nice discussion of these acronym. Here are just a few of the 31 areas.

Etna DOC

Wines from the Mount Etna area are the most known of Sicilian wines with Carricante and Catarratto Bianco, the primary grape varieties behind the Etna Bianco wines. And when you sip Etna Rosso you’re tasting Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio.

Contrary to what you might think, Etna is a higher altitude, cool climate growing area with significant variations depending where vineyards lie. That often equals taut yet fresh and alive depending on the grape variety and winemaking style!

Eloro DOC

Heading directly south of Etna takes you to the traditional island home of Nera d’Avola, the Eloro DOC. Nero d’Avola is the most widely grown red variety found all over the island. I’m guessing it’s the first grape you think of when someone says Sicily and wine in the same sentence?!? If you aren’t familiar with this grape, certainly grab yourself a bottle. Some are black-fruit driven and slightly earthy and smooth while others are red-fruit driven with herbal notes, lean yet elegant.

Marsala DOC

From Eloro heading west (clockwise) along the southern coast you pass several appellations then hit the Marsala DOC on the northwest tip of the island. It’s too bad Marsala was drug into the plonk, sweet, only good for cooking wine category because quality producers make really superb Marsala.

Marsala is fairly complicated with several designations, and color and sweetness categories… not all are overtly sweet. Unfortunately about 80% (Marsala Fine) is intended for cooking purposes. Look for Marsala Vergene or Marsala Superioré on the label.

Monreale and Alcamo DOC

Continuing clockwise, east of Marsala but still in the northwestern side of Sicily sits the Porta del Vento winery in a high valley stradling the Monreale and Alcamo DOCs at 1,900 feet (600 meters) above Palermo. Eighteen hectares total on the steep hills of which fourteen are planted with vineyards.

Porta del Venta organic winery cataratto bianco vineyard

Italian poppies are a common spring sight in Porta del Vento vineyards. Here they co-exist with Cataratto vines.

This higher altitude together with the northern exposure are an added value for Porta del Vento’s vineyards. It enables them to escape the torrid Sicilian heat, allowing grapes to reach phenolic ripeness and maintain higher acidity. Another aid is the wind and large diurnal temperature shifts.

Biodiversity and minimal intervention is important to owner/winemaker Marco Sferlazzo. The small estate works to understand and maintain the balance of wild herbs and other vegetation, and wildlife on the property too. Machines aren’t used in the vineyard thus grapes are hand harvested.

In the winery, fermentation is spontaneous, meaning no added yeast to initiate fermentation. Wines are racked as little as possible and not filtered. According to Sferlazzo, depriving the wines of the elements that make them truly unique is pointless. The estate is certified organic and utilizes biodynamic principles. Sferlazzo chooses to only work with grapes native to Sicily.

The two wines I purchased paired brilliantly with arancini: 2016 Porta del Vento Perricone and 2018 Porta del Vento Catarratto (Bianco). Both grapes- Perricone and Catarratto- are indigenous to Sicily. They are imported into the United States by Singular Selections and available through various stores in the EU. I will be discussing them in greater detail in another article. In the meantime, how about some arancini?!?


5.0 from 2 reviews
Baked Arancini (with Porta del Vento wine)
Author: 
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Arancini is a fantastic way to use up leftover risotto. Better yet, make extra risotto and plan to make Arancini the next day. It's a great aperitivo nibble with a glass of Sicilian wine.
Ingredients
  • 3 cups leftover risotto (however much you have really but you want at least 2 to 3 cups to make it worth it!)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup panko (optional if needed for base risotto)
  • ½ to 1 cup fine semolina flour
  • 2 cups panko (plus or minus) for rolling
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F/190C.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
  3. Place leftover risotto in a large bowl.
  4. (Depending on how moist your risotto is, you might need to add an egg and flour or not. I make my risotto fairly creamy and moist so I do not do the following step.)
  5. Test: grab a golf ball-ish sized amount and form it into a ball. If it holds together well you’re set. If the risotto is drier and does not hold together take the following step:
  6. Mix the egg with a fork then pour over the risotto; mix with a spoon or your hands to combine well. Try forming a ball. If it holds together, great. If not, mix in some panko a small amount at a time and retest.
  7. In a bowl, mix 2 cups of panko with olive oil. Take care to mix well so all the panko is covered. This step helps the arancini get golden brown when baking.
  8. With an ice cream scooper (or hands) make the arancini balls, placing each on a plate until finished.
  9. Roll the balls in the semolina flour, then the egg, then roll in the panko; place on the baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Pour yourself a glass of Sicilian while you are waiting. Cool on a wire rack then indulge.
  11. Optional stuffing: In a small bowl combine about ½ cup grated mozzarella or your favorite cheese with ¼ cup finely diced prosciutto. Form the arancini balls then with your thumb, make an indentation and fill it with a teaspoon of the cheese/meat mixture, then close the ball up. Proceed to roll in semolina flour, egg and panko.
Notes
The risotto I used had leeks, broccoli cut into small pieces and mixed wild mushrooms all sauteed together. I stirred them into the risotto at the end of cooking, along with creamy goat and parmesan cheese.
Arancini can be eaten alone or served with any type of sauce. Here I served them with a roasted tomato, red bell pepper pesto sauce.

 

10 thoughts on “Arancini Calls for Sicilian Wine – Porto del Vento

  1. Allison Wallace

    Our trip to Sicily was far too long ago and far too short. We need to head back and explore the region and Porto del Vento looks like the perfect place to start! And I’ll definitely be passing on that recipe to Chris ;)…

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I hope to hear about your arancini adventures! Guessing it’s just a matter of time before you get back to Sicily ;-D

      Reply
  2. Robin Renken

    I need to explore Sicilian wines! Do the high altitudes and cool climates on Mt. Etna allow the white grapes to be more aromatic? I don’t believe I have ever tasted either of those varieties.
    Porta del Vento sounds beautiful. Recently I have heard of more vineyards utilizing a North Slope to protect vines from some heat. There is a vineyard on Red Mountain in Washington doing this.
    I do love his minimalist approach. More quality winemakers are doing this and I think the knowledge is out there to do it well, with less concerns for things to go wrong. Knowledge is an amazing thing.
    I have been digging deeper into biodynamics, a subject which seems to be popping up in controversial ways as of late and appreciate, yet another winemaker who is embracing the practice.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      That’s a good question Robin. I believe these two climatic factors lead to fresher wines but whether high altitudes and cool climates on Etna allow more aromatic white grapes, I’ll have to research that a bit. Like you, I’m hearing more about norther slope use in warmer areas. Maybe we should start making a list of who’s doing this?!? Lastly, biodynamics is pretty thought provoking! The recent J. Dunning (Word On The Grapevine) article about biodynamics and follow up comments by C. Camp too.

      Reply
      1. robincgc

        Oh my goodness Lynn. That piece by Josh. I must say, I have yet to meet a biodynamic winemaker that I didn’t like. I respect Josh’s opinions, but…I did notice that in the comments on this blog post, there were no dissenting comments, and that made me go…”Hmmm…”
        I continue to read about biodynamics (I have 3 books on my desk currently). I’ve always been a little skeptical about Steiner, the man. But even he said that this process, which I don’t think he even named, should not be dogma. So much of what seems strange and mysterious, is really based on years of agriculture. I have Maria Thul’s book to read next!

        Reply
        1. Lynn Post author

          I enjoyed reading Craig Camp’s follow up to Josh’s article which relays how biodynamic principles have evolved and are being utilized. When we lived in Sacramento, we attended a few talks at the nearby Steiner Institute which were anything but hokey.If you make it to Bordeaux, I’d love to take you to Monfaucon Estate to meet Dawn Jones-Cooper. She uses biodynamic principles, super interesting gal to discuss this topic with, and fabulous wines. I wrote an article about her.

          Reply
  3. Lauren

    I love arancini and Sicilian wines, so this post hit me right where I live! Can’t wait to try your recipe (those photos are making me hungry) and to rustle up a few bottles of Sicilian wine – what a feast.

    Reply

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