Baked Arancini with Kale and Capers

Arancini are classic Sicilian street food fare. They are extremely popular in Sicily (mostly around Palermo) and can be found today in many different Italian regions. I guess you could say they have morphed into yet another Italian food classic.

The only problem is traditional arancini are not vegan – not even close. Most have an egg to bind the rice balls, which are also flavored with cheese. The fillings range from more cheese to the classic meat filling version. Oh…and one other thing – they are deep-fried, which is something else I try to avoid.

But they’re damn good.

So, I decided to rework the recipe a bit and develop a plant-based baked version. This version relies on making sure you make a proper risotto with a starchy rice, then roughly pulse the finished risotto to create a chopped-up version that exposes more starch and helps bind the rice ball. Not traditional, but who cares really because the ball gets coated in breadcrumbs anyway and no one is going to inspect your rice. But don’t go crazy with the pulsing method. You are just wanting to break up the rice a bit and not turning it into a mush.

I chose chopped Tuscan kale and capers for the filling because I just felt these flavors would stand up to the rice and saffron without becoming too overwhelming. You can make these arancini with just a bit of vegan cheese or any other filling you think will work.

I bake the arancini in a very hot oven in order to create a nice golden crust with the breadcrumbs. This is the character of the arancini, and it works in the oven. I also use as little oil as possible throughout the preparation, so I’m not really concerned about the high temperature in the oven. In the end, this method produces a similar end product that is incredibly delicious!

Yield: about 25 portions servings.

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