It should come as no surprise to anyone that I love Mediterranean cuisine, after all, it is one of the bases of our cuisine, from switching to olive oil in most of our recipes, to my undying love of seafood, along with liberal use of olives.
Yeah, I am one of those people who can’t find enough ways to eat olives. You know, like wrapping them with creamy, cheesy rice to make these Baked Rice Balls Stuffed with Olives.
Olea europaea is a shrubbery native to the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa. It is a very important crop in these countries from ancient times, making it an important cultural component for the region, where it has made it into the culture, literature and even religion. Olives have been considered a symbol of peace, justice and abundance.
There are many varieties of olives, of many shapes and colors, though some are more common than others. Most are grown for oil extraction, a few are grown for consumption. The nutritional benefits of olives, especially olive oil, are widely researched and known, for one thing, olives are a great source of vitamin E.
One of the highlights of my travels has been to find an olive vendor in markets, which invariably means leaving with bags of samples to try. At home the offer may not be as rich in variety, but olives are something that never lack in my kitchen and cooking, and are a regular offer in my picadera tables.
These rice balls make use of leftover rice, and if they remind you of Italian arancini, well, they only have the “rice ball” part in common, these are baked.
Surprise your guests with these creamy rice balls, very crispy on the outside, and filled with flavorful Mezzetta olives. Your Christmas parties won’t be complete without them.
- 2 cups of fresh tomato , peeled, seeded and chopped (about 4 large tomatoes)
- 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 tablespoons of olive oil
- A pinch of dry oregano leaves , crushed
- 1 garlic clove , crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt , or to taste
- 2 cups of cooked arroz blanco (white rice)
- 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of milk
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 cup of grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- 6 olives
Heat oil and cook and stir tomatoes, garlic, and a pinch of oregano, add water and sugar. Simmer over low heat until you obtain a thick (chunky) sauce. Season with salt to taste. You should obtain about 1 1/2 cup of sauce. Set aside.
Mix rice, flour, milk and water and simmer over very low heat, until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Mix in 1/4 of a cup of cheese (set aside the rest) and cook stirring until it turns into a very thick mix. Cool to room temperature.
Once it's cooled, knead for a minute to make it into a more compact mixture.
Heat oven to 450 ºF [230 ºC]
Place 3 tablespoons of the rice mix on your hand and flatten, place an olive in the center and wrap the rice around it, shaping into a ball. Squeeze to make sure there are no cracks.
Coat the ball with the remaining cheese and squeeze to make sure it sticks. Repeat to form 5 more balls.
Bake on a silpat mat, or greased tray until the balls turn golden brown (15-20 mins).
Cool slightly before serving. Serve alongside the tomato sauce.