Festive recipe: Dario Cecchini's chestnut arancini

This seasonal dish uses leftover Italian ingredients to make a delicious appetiser

Chestnut arancini by chef Claudio Cardoso, culinary director of SLS Dubai. Photo: Carna by Dario Cecchini
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Holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a desire to make and feast on delicious and traditional treats that at once tantalise the taste buds and fill you with a sense of nostalgia.

In this series of seasonal dishes, we ask chefs from the UAE's top restaurants to share their favourite festive recipes.

Chestnut arancini from Carna by Dario Cecchini

Chef Claudio Cardoso, culinary director of SLS Dubai, was born in South Africa and raised in Portugal. He worked in both those countries, as well as in Peru, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hong Kong and the UK, before moving to the UAE. The various cultures he’s been exposed to serve as chef Cardoso’s main source of inspiration, and he’s a fan of food markets and reimagining dishes rooted in culture and tradition.

Of the arancini recipe he shares with The National, Cardoso says: “The idea behind this dish, at least in Italy, is to reutilise the leftovers of arborio rice and chestnut, creating something seasonal and delicious.”

Chestnut arancini

Makes 12

Chestnuts are a popular ingredient in Christmas cooking. Photo: Waitrose

Ingredients for the risotto

  • 120g butter
  • 400g arborio rice
  • 200ml apple cider vinegar
  • 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 onion (about 150g), finely diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 50g dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 25g water chestnuts, finely chopped
  • 80g Parmesan or white cheddar cheese (or a mix)
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Ingredients for the coating

  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 250g breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable or sunflower oil, for frying

Ingredients for the salsa verde

  • 5g of salted capers, heaped, rinsed in cold water
  • Salted anchovy fillets, rinsed in cold water
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 100g of flat-leaf parsley, fresh
  • Handful of rocket or basil leaves
  • 70ml of extra-virgin olive oil


  1. To make the risotto, melt 40g of the butter in a large pan over a medium heat.
  2. Add the rice and mix well to ensure all the grains are coated with butter. Add the vinegar, and stir until it has been absorbed by the rice. Add 100ml of the stock and stir gently. Once the stock has been absorbed, add another 100ml.
  3. Continue adding the stock until all of it has been absorbed and the rice is almost cooked. This will take 20-25 minutes. Then remove from the heat and 60g of butter. Stir well.
  4. In a separate pan, add the remaining 20g butter, and saute the onion, thyme, cranberries and water chestnuts over a medium heat for five minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add this mixture into the risotto and stir well. Place the risotto back over a medium heat and continue cooking for about five minutes. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper, as desired. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely, overnight is ideal.
  6. To make small risotto cylinders, gather an amount of cold risotto roughly the size of a golf ball and work it into a small cylinder by rolling on the table. Dip it in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs. Place on a tray or plate and transfer to the fridge to firm up for at least 30 minutes.
  7. For the salsa verde, place all the ingredients in a blender, process at full speed and reserve.
  8. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Alternatively, you can use a deep-fat fryer, heated to 180°C.
  9. Deep-fry the balls in batches for five to six minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil. Serve the arancini with the salsa verde.
Updated: December 22, 2022, 10:46 AM