If you were to ask me for my favourite vegetarian recipe, I suspect that my Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto would be a strong contender. There’s a lot to love about the near perfect balance of its two primary yet somewhat contrasting flavours. The sweet, brightly coloured squash and the earthy, almost medicinal sage. They really are a flavour match made in heaven. Well, for me at least.
It will come as no surprise, then, to find out that the base recipe for these Arancini is remarkably similar to that rather lovely risotto. The only significant change being that here I use blue cheese in place of the goats’ cheese from the original version. I’m a bit of a fan of a hidden treat in the middle of an arancino* and I find a blue cheese hit to be spot on here.
As with my previous recipe for Arancini (Oven-Baked Tuna Melt Arancini) these are popped into the oven to crisp up, rather than being fried in oil. A method that I know is not traditional but is very much my preference when cooking at home. I don’t have either the time or desire to deal with large pans of hot oil. If you’d rather fry these than bake them then be my guest.
Either way you’ll end up with some truly delicious little parcels of flavour. Sweet, herbal, sharp and deeply comforting all at once. Arancini are a lovely way to make a risotto feel a little more special. If you have the time on your hands it almost seems rude not to put in the extra effort…
* – I am very much aware that there is an ongoing linguistic disagreement in Sicily about the name of these tasty little rice balls. I tend towards the masculine form of arancino for the singular and arancini in the plural. That’s purely because of how I was first introduced to them here in the UK. If you prefer the feminine arancina / arancine form then who am I to argue?
Oven-Baked Butternut Squash & Sage Arancini
for the Risotto
- 1 medium Butternut Squash around 500g
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 750 ml Vegetable Stock
- 20 Sage Leaves finely chopped
- 2 Shallots peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove Garlic peeled and crushed
- 250 g Arborio Rice
- 175 ml Vermouth or Dry White Wine
for the Arancini
- 100 g Blue Cheese cut into 1cm chunks.
- 100 g Plain Flour
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- 1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 large Free Range Egg beaten
- 100 g Panko Breadcrumbs
- Spray Oil optional
For the Butternut Sauce
- 100 ml Vegetable Stock
For the Blue Cheese Sauce
- 50 g Blue Cheese
- 50 g Good Quality Mayonnaise
Make the Risotto
- Preheat oven to 180°C
- Cut the butternut squash in half and remove the seeds and surrounding membrane. Put on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tbsp of the oil. Roast in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until tender. This saves you the hassle of peeling it (which is a chore!) and also adds to the depth of flavour.
- When the squash has roasted remove it from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the flesh from the skin, it will scoop out easily, and divide between two bowls – half the mixture will be used in the risotto and the remainder in the sauce.
- Pour the vegetable stock into a saucepan over a medium heat and bring to just below a simmer. Reduce the heat and keep warm. Add half of the chopped sage leaves and stir through the stock, allowing them to infuse.
- Heat a good sized deep frying pan or saucepan over a medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add the chopped shallots and sauté for 8-10 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so until fragrant, ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn.
- Increase the heat to medium-high then pour the rice into the pan. Stir it into the oily shallot mixture until it’s well coated, then toast for a minute or so until ends of each grain turn slightly translucent. Pour in the vermouth, or wine, and stir while it bubbles vigorously until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.
- At this stage start adding the stock mixture one ladle at a time to the rice, continuing to stir well and only adding more stock when the liquid is almost gone. It’s important to note that you may not need all the stock or might need to add a bit more water towards the end.
- When the rice is tender but still retaining a little bite stir, and the stock has reduced to a thick coating on the rice it will be cooked. At this stage, stir in the butternut squash and the remaining sage leaves, then remove from the heat.
- Spread the hot risotto over a large baking tray and allow to cool completely. If you have time, pop it into the fridge for an hour.
Make the Arancini
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºSpray a baking sheet with a little bit of oil.
- Divide the Risotto mixture into 12 equally sized portions, depending on how big you want them to be, then flatten each into a disc.
- Put a small amount of blue cheese into the centre of each disc, then bring up the edges of the rice and form into a ball – sealing the cheese into the centre. Make sure you properly seal the edges at this stage.
- Season the flour with the salt and black pepper. Then put the flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs into separate bowls.
- Coat the rice balls first in the seasoned flour, tapping to remove any excess, then into the egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Place onto the baking sheet after completing each ball.
- Spray the outside of each ball with a little bit of oil, then bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown and crisp on the outside.
- Leave to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Make the Sauces
- While the arancini are baking you can make the two sauces.
- For the butternut squash sauce, put the remaining squash into a small pan along with the vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer and then reduce down to your preferred consistency. Add any seasoning you feel it needs, but with a good vegetable stock none should be needed.
- For the blue cheese sauce, mix together the blue cheese with the mayonnaise and stir until combined. This makes quite a thick sauce, which I put underneath each arancino as a little hit of bonus flavour. If you want a more pourable sauce, then add a little soured cream or lemon juice to loosen the texture.
- Put a few spoonfuls of each sauce onto two plates. Top with the crispy arancini and serve immediately, with any leftover sauce alongside.
|Estimated Values per Serving|
|of which Saturates||9||g|
|of which Sugars||6||g|
|Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.|