Ham and Brie Arancini with Cranberry Sauce and Negroni Cocktails


I have been making Arancini for many, many years, so long that I think the original recipe I used, when I was about 19 years old, was from the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook Italian issue, and they were called ‘telefono’ because when you split one open the mozzarella in the middle stretched out between the two halves like a telephone wire.  (I have bored my boys with that story on more than one occasion…) Back to the matter at hand, this version provides you with a great way to make use of left-over Christmas ham, and paired with brie instead of mozzarella, and dunked into cranberry sauce, creates a very festive New Year’s Eve nibble.  They are a bit fiddly, but not difficult to make, and always have a bit of ‘wow’ factor. They go particularly well with champagne, pinot gris or pinot noir. To be fair, I would eat them with just about anything, and my tipple of choice of the moment is a classic Italian cocktail (you know I like a theme) the Negroni. Orangey bitter, gorgeously-coloured and with a good bit of ‘oomph’. 

Have a fabulous New Year's Eve and I'll see you in 2014!!!!

Ham and Brie Arancini with Cranberry Sauce

2 tbsp olive oil
2 small brown onions, peeled and chopped into a reasonably fine dice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 big or 6 small cloves garlic, crushed

2 ½ cups Arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
8-9 cups good quality chicken stock, heated until simmering on the stove top nearby
1 ½ cups ham off the bone, cut into a 1cm dice
25g butter
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

300g brie or camembert , not too ripe,  firmed up in the fridge then chopped into 1cm dice

4 -5 eggs, whisked (start with 4 then add another if you need it )
4 cups breadcrumbs
6 cups neutral oil such as Ricebran (with a high smoke point)

Heat olive oil in a super-big heavy bottomed saucepan and cook onions with salt and pepper over a medium/gentle heat for 10 minutes until softened but not coloured. Add garlic and cook another 2 or 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium and add rice. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes until the mixture is feeling a little dry. Add wine and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until it is absorbed. Continue cooking adding a cup of stock at a time, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Give the rice a good stir every time you add more stock – the whole process will probably take at least 35-40 minutes as you have a lot of rice to cook. You may not need the full 9 cups of stock, but it's good to heat the lot just in case. Once the stock is mostly absorbed and the rice is just soft (try not to let it get mushy…) add the ham, butter and Parmesan and stir through. Take off the heat, leave to cool then plop the whole lot into a big container and chill, covered in the fridge until you are ready to make your arancini balls – for at least 4 hours.

OK gird your loins for the next bit, it is a little messy and a little boring. Just crank up the stereo and put a straw into your cup of tea (you will see why…I actually made these with a straw into a Negroni cocktail, which is of course also an excellent option).  Get out two big baking trays and line them with baking paper and pour breadcrumbs into a flattish bowl in preparation. Right, your risotto mix should now be a big solidish lump -  spoon a heaped tablespoon into your left hand (or right if you are a leftie), poke a bit of brie into the middle and squish the risotto around it. Mold into a ball about the size of a golf ball and roll around until covered in the breadcrumbs then pop on a tray. Repeat repeatedly. When you have done them all pop in the fridge for at least an hour (or up to overnight if you can’t face doing it again just yet). Repeat the process but dip the ball in the whisked eggs first, then into the breadcrumbs – this provides a lovely crispy exterior through which your melty brie should not explode. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I would advise you get the whole messy business done the day before then when the time comes to serve, you just magically appear with a couple of chilled trays of beautiful balls ready for frying. Heat the oil in a large pot until shimmering on the top and a bit of bread dropped in fries to golden without sogging around dropping to the bottom or turning dark and crispy, in about 20 seconds. Fry the balls in lots of about 7 (depending on the size of your pot) for about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on scrunched paper towels and serve with a sprinkling of sea salt and a bowl of cranberry sauce for dipping. (You can heat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F) and keep one lot hot while you cook the next one then serve them together – but don’t try and do the whole lot and keep them hot in the oven as they won’t stay as nice for that long.  Makes approximately 40 (have to confess I can't exactly remember...might have been a few more) – and believe me, they will go. Please feel free to make this these with any risotto of your choice - I use leftovers to make them all the time! The only thing to be aware of is that your extra bits in the risotto aren't too chunky or they get hard to roll into balls.


Mix equal parts Campari, Sweet Vermouth and Gin in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Pour into a glass, don dark glasses in a Sophia Loren type fashion and enjoy. (If you find this concoction too bitter I wouldn't object to a splash of cranberry juice or a squirt of soda...)


  1. This looks amazing. What a fantastic way to use up the left over ham. As always photos are stunning :)

    1. Thanks so much for your kind comments Matt - I really appreciate it! :)

  2. Stopped me in my tracks!
    Since this makes so much, do you think freezing for later use would be ok?
    Aloha from Hawaii

    1. Hi - sadly I don't think freezing would be a good idea, but both the risotto and arancini will keep uncooked in the fridge for 2-3 days :)