Basic risotto cakes consist of patty-shaped clusters of risotto, a creamy dish made from rice, wine, stock, butter, and cheese, which have been breaded and fried. Often, risotto cakes are prepared using leftover risotto, making the somewhat labor-intensive process of preparing risotto pay off in the eyes of some cooks. Variations of the basic risotto cake recipe may call for the inclusion of meats, cheeses, fresh herbs, or vegetables. These cakes are an adaptation of the popular Italian fried risotto dish called arancini.
The most basic risotto cakes are fairly simple in both their contents and their preparation method. To make them, a cluster of risotto is formed into a small patty and coated in breadcrumbs. It is then fried in oil for approximately five minutes, and consumed.
Possible variations of the basic risotto cake recipe are more or less limited only by the cook’s imagination. Some popular versions include meat, such as ground beef or ham, or seafood, such as shrimp or tuna. Many cooks add cheese to the risotto mixture, the breading, or both. It is also common to add fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, or parsley to risotto cakes. Some cooks opt to incorporate vegetables like asparagus, green onions, or butternut squash into their cakes.
Often, risotto cakes are prepared not by making a fresh batch of risotto, but by using risotto left over from a previous meal. The preparation of risotto itself is viewed by many as a rather labor-intensive process which involves adding ladles of stock in stages as well as almost constant stirring. Using leftover risotto to make cakes allow cooks to enjoy the fruits of their labor over two meals rather than just one.
Risotto cakes are an adaptation of the popular Italian dish called arancini. These clusters of breaded, fried risotto, which are especially common in Sicily, are usually round rather than patty-shaped. In fact, the word arancini translates to “little oranges,” a reference to the clusters’ round shape as well as the orange hue of their fried coating. Along with leftover or freshly-prepared risotto, arancini often also contain tomato sauce, peas, and cheese.