The Historic Arancina
The arancina is a specialty of Sicilian Cuisine. It consists of a deep fried rice ball of approximately 8-10 centimeters in diameters. It is filled at the center with ragu, the all purpose savory meat sauce whose ingredients are representative of the many civilizations that have influenced the culture of Sicily.
The name of this rice ball, arancina, comes from its shape and color that typically resemble those of an orange. In the eastern part of the island of Sicily the arancina might come in a conical shape that brings to mind Etna volcano.
It is important to mmention that the arancina was introduced in Sicily during the period of Saracen domination, between te IX and XII centuries. For the arabic diet rice was a basic staple. During banquets, at the center the table, they place an ample platter of rice richly seasoned with saffron and loaded with greens, meat and other aromatic spices. The guest could serve themselves by a simple stretch of the hand. These were the origins and composition of the arancine, minus the tomato component which was yet to be introduced from Americas.
The finisced product of the arancina was and ingenious invention, making the ball shaped rice confection easy to carry araund. Coated with a crusty golden shell, as a result of deep frying, the arancinibecame traveling food, able to keep for a long period whithout spoiling. Some historian attribute this clever idea to Federick II, (1194-1250), who had a particular weakness for rice, and who didn’t want to deprive himself of it during his external hunting parties.
In fact, the arancina’s filling underwent a slow evolution up to the introduction of the tomato in the XIX century, when this garden vegetable made its apparence of the dining tables of the nobility. Over time, the custom of flavoring and coloring the arancine filling with tomatoes, as a substitute to expensive saffron, became acceptable as an option.
Translation of Professor Anthony Perrone for Sicilia Bella ©