Requires: a thermometer (suitable for candy, jam and deep-frying)
To make the rice mixture for the arancine, place the water in a large non-stick stockpot over high heat. Cover and bring to the boil. Add the Arborio rice and cover. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 8 minutes. Remove the lid and cook, continually stirring with a wooden spoon until all of the liquid from the stockpot has been absorbed and the Arborio rice is ‘al dente’ (approximately 2-4 minutes). Remove the stockpot from the heat. Stir in the butter and Parmigiano Reggiano. Season to taste.
Optional: If you are using saffron for this recipe, stir in the saffron threads.
Spread the rice mixture onto a large baking tray. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour minimum.
Using a mortar and pestle, crush the fennel seeds.
Meanwhile to make the Italian ragù, heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and ground fennel seeds. Cook, stirring, until the onion is soft (approximately 4 minutes). Add the pork mince and season with salt to taste. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, breaking up any lumps until the meat is lightly browned all over. Add the red wine and cook for about 5 minutes or until the wine has reduced. Stir in the Italian passata, tomato paste, water and peas. Season with salt to taste and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for approximately 45 minutes or until the ragù has reduced to your required consistency. Stir the Italian ragù occasionally so that the sauce does not stick to the pot and burn, then remove from the heat. Add more water to the ragù, as needed to keep the sauce lovely and moist. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 45 minutes.
Place flour in a bowl. In a separate bowl, place the dried breadcrumbs. Use a fork to lightly whisk the eggs in a third bowl.
To make the arancine, use wet hands to shape the rice mixture. Place some rice (approximately the size of a golf ball) and flatten into your cupped hand. Place 2 tablespoons of the Italian ragù in the centre of the cupped rice and a few cubes of caciocavallo cheese (or mozzarella) in the middle of the Italian ragù. Shape more of the rice mixture (once again the size of a golf ball) into the cup of your hand. Mould the rice mixture over the Italian ragù topped rice mixture to completely enclose the arancine. Shape into a ball or conical shape. Repeat with the remaining rice mixture, Italian ragù and cheese to make 8 arancine balls.
Dip 1 arancine ball in flour, shaking off any excess. Dip the flour coated arancine ball in the egg mixture, then coat in breadcrumbs. Place the arancine ball onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining arancine balls, then place the plate with arancine in the fridge to chill for minimum 30 minutes.
Pour enough sunflower oil into a saucepan to reach a depth of 5cm. Heat the saucepan over medium heat to reach a temperature of 170°C (when the oil is ready, a pinch of breadcrumbs sizzle when dropped in the saucepan). Cook the arancine balls, in batches of 2-3, turning occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Serve immediately – buon appetito.