There are things in life which you shouldn’t form an opinion on until after you’ve tried them. A new city, perhaps, or a job. Movies, acquaintances. Things that require familiarity before a sound judgment can be made. Arancine, however, do not fall into this category. As soon as I heard them described, I knew they’d be my new favorite food of all time. Didn’t even need to taste one.
Arancine are fried, breaded balls of sticky rice filled with ragú (meat sauce), tomato sauce, and mozzarella. How could that go wrong?! Stuff those ingredients into an old sock, and I would eat it.
The existence of arancine was first recorded in Sicily during the 10th century. Although eaten elsewhere in Italy, they’re a distinctly Sicilian snack and have become an emblem of pride for the island. The name means “little orange” (Italian for orange is arancia), although some of the examples you can find in street markets around Palermo are the size of rather large oranges (like the bubba in the photo above).
Arancine are street food: nothing you would order in a restaurant, but a snack to be eaten as a quick lunch, or when you’re hungry during midday. Though the ball shapes with ragú/mozzarella filling are most common, there are also arancine in cones, or filled with things like ham or mushrooms.
If you can’t get to Italy, but must try them yourself, a great recipe for classic arancine can be found at italianrecipies.about.com.