Cauliflower arancini made with cauliflower rice with a spicy mozzarella cheese molten filling are a healthier alternative. These are great served alone or with a delicious Marinara sauce.
Traditionally, arancini are Italian rice balls stuffed with mozzarella or meat and are coated with bread crumbs then deep fried. So, I looked to make a healthier version. Why should we miss out just because we follow a different lifestyle? I wanted a low carb and gluten free arancini.
Cauliflower rice was the obvious choice in place of the traditional risotto rice since I enjoy a cauliflower risotto. It’s best to cook the cauliflower rice beforehand so it reduces the water content as you want the cauliflower arancini balls to hold together and not fall apart in your hands. The final cauliflower arancini balls are coated with Parmesan cheese instead of breadcrumbs then baked instead of fried. A much healthier option and gluten free rice balls too.
This can be a messy dish to make as you mould the cauliflower rice around the mozzarella balls. Make sure your hands are wet (and clean) to make it easier. I squashed the cauliflower ball in the palm of my hands and then squeezed it up and around the mozzarella and chilli filling. I then moulded the rice around the centre filling. I’ve made messier dishes but once you make a couple you should have the hang of it!
I was trying for a cauliflower arancini with a molten centre so tiny mozzarella balls were used for the filling. Fearing that they might be a bit bland with just the cauliflower rice, I added some dried chilli flakes to the centre. It gives it a little kick of flavour. The Chief Taster like and commented on this and agreed that it definitely needed that kick. Perhaps another strong herb could be used if you are not fond of a spice, but something with its own postcode. I had thought about fresh basil leaves, with a slither of sun dried tomato too. Perhaps another batch just to taste them!
I made a batch with grated Cheddar cheese and another with grated Gruyere cheese because, well Gruyere is everywhere here. Both worked out well, so as long as you have a hard cheese, it can be used and grated for this recipe. I served them with a Marinara sauce as I like the contrast of a tomato sauce with the cauliflower arancini balls. As well as dipping the balls into the sauce, I made one version with the Marinara sauce poured over a baking dish full of the cauliflower arancini balls, with a sprinkling of cheese. Baked in the oven for 15 minutes it was a delicious dish which we both ate with enthusiasm. Which is code for we inhaled our food, rather than slowly eat and savour it.
The Parmesan cheese for the coating must be grated finely, whether it be fresh or the cheese in a tub. We are lucky here in that we get the fresh Parmesan finely grated sold in the tub so I used that. Alternatively, you could use a hard piece of fresh Parmesan and grate it yourself using the small holes on your grater. Just watch your knuckles though!
These cauliflower arancini make a great main meal but you could also snack on a couple of these if you have any leftover. I would recommend that you serve these warm though. I munched on a couple of cold ones for the sheer purpose of research and they did not get my heart pounding. Much better served warm with a sauce.