Sweet Fregola Sarda Arancini with Spiced Blackberry Coulis

Sweet Sassy Molassy

I’m not going to lie – this recipe is a little banana cakes. But here’s the skinny. Marx Foods, fine food experts and foodie dream, held a contest to turn fregola sarda (a Sicilian treat similar to Israeli couscous) into *gasp* a dessert. So my brain got to working and did a lily pad leaping move from rice pudding to beignets to arancini to a coulis in lieu of marinara. Wait, what? Now factor in that I have to include star anise or saffron or vanilla bean. Or all three. Can it be done?

Fast forward a bit as the hubby and I are biting into the little fried gems that look exactly like Sicilian arancini (fried risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella cheese), but tasted exactly like fried rice pudding. Saffron gilded the pudding yellow, vanilla bean enriched the lovely cream, and fresh blackberries received a spicy kick from red wine studded with star anise. The success was tangible. And tasty. I know you want in, so what are you waiting for?

Sweet Fregola Sarda Arancini with Spiced Blackberry Coulis

18 oz. of fresh blackberries
1/2 c. of red wine
1 c. of sugar
1 piece of star anise
5 cloves
3 whole allspice berries
1 tsp. of orange blossom water

1 c. of fregola sarda
2 1/2 c. of heavy cream
1 1/2 c. of whole milk
1 vanilla bean
pinch of saffron
1/2 c. of flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. of bread crumbs
4 tbs. of sugar
oil for frying
powdered sugar for dusting

First make the coulis. Put the allspice, cloves and star anise in a tea ball and put in a saucepot. Add the berries, sugar, and wine, and bring to a simmer, continuing to cook for about 8-10 minutes. Take out the tea ball. Pour the berry mixture into a blender and purée until smooth. Strain out the seeds with a sieve, add the orange blossom water and set aside to cool.

Now for the arancini – add the fregola sarda, milk, cream, saffron and vanilla bean (halved and scraped into the pot) to a pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Let simmer for 40 minutes, or until fregola are tender and the cream has thickened. Fish out the vanilla bean and chill mixture.

While your fregola sarda are still cold, form into 16 small portions – sometimes I take a large bowl and put the risotto inside, and then score it like a pie into 8 slices. I then take each “slice” and split it into two pieces. Voilá – sixteen portions! Wet your hands and form each of the portions into a smooth ball. Place on a cookie sheet lined with a sheet of wax paper. When you’ve rolled all of the arancini, place in the freezer to allow them to solidify a bit.

While the arancini are cooling, break out 3 shallow dishes. Add the flour to one dish. Scramble the egg in the second dish. Place the breadcrumbs and sugar in the third dish. Take the arancini out of the freezer and start an assembly line. First dredge them in the flour, shaking off the excess. Then, plunk them in the egg to wet them all over. Lastly, dredge in the breadcrumbs and place on a clean dish or another cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

Heat a pot of cooking oil to 350° and gently lower a batch of arancini into the hot oil (3 at a time is good). Cook until beautifully golden on the outside, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with coulis for dipping.

FTC Disclosure Statement: Marx Foods sent me a free sample of fregola sarda, saffron, star anise and vanilla beans to use in this recipe contest for a chance to win a free prize. I was not required to do so or compensated for this recipe. My opinions, albeit sassy and classy, are mine and mine alone.

22 thoughts on “Sweet Fregola Sarda Arancini with Spiced Blackberry Coulis”

    1. Thank you! They were so fun to nibble on with the pleasant crunchy outside yielding a creamy center. Absolutely worth a try!

  1. What a perfect dessert for the fregola, one usually made with rice pudding! The recipe is lovely; it makes me wish we could have eggs at our house. I may make just the blackberry sauce, though. And then bathe in it…

    1. Hmm – makes me want to craft a vegan recipe for these babies. I'm sure it could be done easily. And the blackberry sauce is ridiculously amazing. Certainly bath worthy, for sure 😉

  2. This is such a beautiful dessert and creative use of the fregola. 🙂 I'm so glad to get to know your blog through the Marx Foods contest.

  3. These look fantastic! I've never cooked with orange blossom water, is it pretty strong or subtle? I'm glad to meet you via the Marx Foods contest! Cheers!

    1. You're too sweet! Orange blossom water is subtly floral and fragrant like rosewater, only with the scent of honeysuckle. The only thing with it is that, like rosewater, if you use too much, you feel like you are eating perfume. Not so fun.

      So nice to meet you as well!

  4. What a nice idea! I love the spiced blackberry coulis–very creative! Good luck with your entry. I know I had a blast with the contest! 🙂

    1. Me too – very fun to create a recipe with the fregola sarda and such fun spices. Apparently blackberries and star anise are friends – who knew?

  5. You're arancini came out so cute and neat, and with such lovely goldeny-ness on the outside! Good luck in the contest 🙂

    1. The secret was sugar with the bread crumbs for a perfect golden crust. Thanks for the kind words and good luck to you as well 🙂

  6. I love the picture of the inside of the arancici – it looks like it stayed smooth and creamy. I would love to try this myself!

    1. It was very fun in terms of the play on temperature and texture – it's a hybrid between warm and chilled rice pudding, all in one bite. Plus the blackberry coulis rounds out the party. Excited to hear about your making it for yourself sometime!

    1. You're so sweet! They were actually not at all hard to make as long as you let the fregola sarda pudding sit for enough time so that it's easy to scoop and stays in a ball easily. And the blackberry coulis is ridiculous. I'm thinking I want to eat it on just about everything.

  7. Girl, congrats!!! I am SO excited for you. When I have fresh blackberries in season next summer I am going to make this.

    1. Thanks, Angie! I'd be interested to see you craft a blackberry jam recipe around the same flavors used in the sauce. I think it would be amazing!

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