Peas and Pistachio Arancini with Tarragon Pesto

Peas and Pistachio Arancini

This Peas and Pistachio Arancini with Tarragon Pesto is an example of a favorite Italian street food. They’re pretty easy to make too. They’re nothing more than fried rice balls– a great way to use leftover risotto. Most have a surprise inside. This one is no exception.

Peas and Pistachio Arancini with Tarragon Pesto 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 16Source Renato Poliafito for Food & WinePublished

Make Ahead: The fried arancini can be cooled, covered and refrigerated overnight; reheat them in a 375° F oven until crispy, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Peas and Pistachio Arancini


  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cup fresh tarragon leaves (loosely packed)
  • ½ cup shelled and roughly chopped pistachios (divided)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan (divided)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (or more to taste)
  • 3 tablespoon unsated butter (divided)
  • 1 large shallot (minced)
  • 1 ½ cup Arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 pinch saffron threads (crumbled)
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (as needed)
  • 3 cup chicken stock (warmed)
  • ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour (plus more as needed for dusting arancini)
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 pinch grated nutmeg
  • 4 ounce mozzarella (well chilled then finely diced)
  • 2 tablespoon frozen baby peas (thawed)
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • vegetable oil (as needed, for frying)


Make the pesto: Peel and finely chop the garlic. Add about ⅓ of the tarragon leaves and continue chopping. Once this is loosely chopped add a big pinch or two more tarragon. Continue chopping, scraping and gathering the mixture into a thick pile every time it begins to spread out. Continue the process with a big pinch or two of tarragon at a time until all the tarragon in incorporated. This method gives you a nice varied textured that cannot be matched by a food processor. 

Add about 1/8 cup the pistachios; chopping, scraping and gathering as before. Add another 1/8 cup pitachios, continuing the process. Repeat these steps with the ¼ cup grated Parmesan. Your goal is a dense mixture that will hold together when pinched. At that point transfer the pesto to a small bowl. Cover with the olive oil; stirring to combine. Makes about 1 cup of pesto.

Make the risotto: In a large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 7 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until well coated with butter. Add the white wine and saffron, season with salt and black pepper and cook, stirring, until the wine is absorbed, 2 minutes. Add the warm chicken stock ½ cup at a time and cook, stirring constantly between additions, until it is absorbed. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente, 25 minutes total. Stir in the remaining ¼ cup grated Parmesan, transfer to a bowl and let cool.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan. Add the ½ tablespoon of flour and whisk constantly over moderate heat for 1 minute. Add the milk and cook, whisking, until thickened. Season with the nutmeg, salt and black pepper and transfer to a bowl to cool completely. Stir in the mozzarella, remaining ¼ cup pistachios and all the peas.

Make the arancini: Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Put the eggs, panko and flour for dusting in 3 shallow bowls. Using lightly moistened hands, shape the rice mixture into sixteen 2‑inch balls. Working with one ball at a time, make an indentation in the center with your finger and press the sides to make the hollow larger. Spoon a scant tablespoon of the pistachio filling into the hollow and press the risotto around the filling to enclose it. Take care to fully enclose the filling so it doesn’t ooze out during frying. Transfer the ball to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining risotto and filling. Dust the arancini with flour, tapping off the excess. Coat them with the egg and roll in the panko.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 1 ½ to 2‑inches vegetable oil to 350° F. Fry the arancini, turning occasionally, until deeply golden, about 8 minutes. Drain the arancini on paper towels and serve hot.