Sinead’s ‘Cheesy Comforts’ Courgette & Cooleeney Arancini Balls with Arrabbiata Sauce

By: Sinead Bezy Henry

Sinead's version of the Italian classic arancini balls, was GastroGays' winning dish for our Cheesy Comforts competition, they loved it for its crunchy and crispy texture and its clever use of leftovers.

"There is a little bit of work involved with these lads but they are worth it! I often see myself making a risotto as an excuse to recreate these delicious balls of cheese delight. Any leftover risotto screams Arancini Balls. They can be stuffed with a variety of fillings but in my opinion, cheese is a must. I have experimented with many different cheeses but the creaminess/nuttiness of Cooleeney is a winner for me as it oozes out unapologetically. Any type of brie or camembert also works a treat.

I previously lived in Naples where I was first introduced to the joys of Arancini Balls, a common indulgent street food stuffed with bechamel and ragù. I decided to create a lighter version by using courgettes. Ever since living in Italy I have become slightly obsessed with creating different versions of this dish. The rich arrabbiata sauce and melting cheese is a match made in heaven and I would happily eat a plate of these for dinner. In the absence of travel, why not try this recipe and pretend you are eating them on the bustling streets of Naples."

Buon Appetito

Serves: 4-6


For Risotto

- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

- 2 cloves of garlic, minced

- 2 shallots, finely diced

- 1 courgette, finely chopped

- 80ml white wine

- 500g risotto rice

- 1500ml vegetable stock (add a bay leave and some fresh thyme)

- 70g Parmesan Cheese, finely grated (keep the rind)

- Salt and pepper

For Arancini Balls:

- 200g Cooleeney Cheese, cut into small chunks (including rind)

- 2 eggs, lightly whisked

- 150g plain flour

- 300g panko breadcrumbs (if you cannot find panko you can use ordinary breadcrumbs)

- Sunflower oil (for frying)

For Tomato Arrabbiata Sauce:

- 1 tbsp olive oil

- 3 cloves of garlic, minced

- 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped

- ½ a bunch of fresh basil, roughly chopped

- 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

- Salt & pepper


1. To make the risotto, heat up the olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onions and garlic until soft. Add the courgette and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Add the risotto rice and cook for one minute.

2. Pour in the white wine and continue to cook for two more minutes. In a separate pot, heat the stock over a low heat and add the thyme and bay leaf. It is important that the stock is hot as you add it into the rice. Continue to stir the risotto and gradually add the vegetable stock as the rice absorbs it. At this stage, if you have a parmesan rind, add it to the risotto as it adds an additional cheese flavour. Continue gradually adding stock, stirring until the rice is cooked. The time can vary but takes approximately 20 minutes to cook the rice. The amount of stock you need will depend on your rice. If the rice is too dry, add more stock until it is fully cooked but still has a bite.

3. Add the parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Remove the parmesan rind at this stage (if added).

4. Once the risotto is cooked, you can either eat it! or allow it to cool to make your Arancini Balls.

5. To form the Arancini Balls, scoop a portion of the cooled risotto into your hand. Place a chunk of Cooleeney Cheese in the centre and shape it into a ball. Repeat with the remaining risotto and cheese. Place in the fridge for about 10 minutes to help them keep their shape.

6. In three separate bowls, place the flour, whisked egg and panko breadcrumbs. Firstly, lightly coat the Arancini Balls in flour, then coat in the whisked egg and finally coat in the panko breadcrumbs until they are fully covered. Repeat until you have used up all the risotto.

7. Heat the sunflower oil in a deep pan until it reaches about 180 degrees. Deep fry the balls for about 4 minutes on either side (or until fully golden). You may have to fry the balls in batches. Drain any excess oil on kitchen paper.

8. To make the arrabbiata sauce, place garlic, chilli and basil stalks in a pan over a medium heat with the olive oil and fry for two minutes. Add in the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes over a medium-low heat. Blend until smooth.

9. Serve the Arancini Balls immediately with the tomato sauce, grated parmesan cheese and lots of fresh chopped parsley.

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