Pumpkin & Sage Arancini

Pumpkin & Sage Arancini
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About This Recipe

As the leaves start to turn and the air gets a crisp coolness, Napa Valley comes alive with the promise of bountiful harvests not only in the vineyards but also in the lush, verdant gardens scattered throughout this picturesque region. The transition from summer to fall is not merely a change in the weather; it's an invitation to explore a new palette of flavors that reflect the rich, fertile land of Napa and neighboring Sonoma. One dish that captures this essence beautifully is the Pumpkin & Sage Arancini. This delicacy is not just a dish; it's a narrative of the seasons, a tale told through the delicate interplay of pumpkin and sage nestled within a crispy, golden orb of delight.

The Pumpkin & Sage Arancini is a culinary nod to the traditional Italian arancini but with a distinct Napa Valley twist. The journey begins with Arborio rice simmered to perfection in a vegetable broth till it’s al dente and creamy. The addition of pumpkin puree not only lends a gorgeous hue but also a subtle, earthy sweetness that is synonymous with fall. Sage, a herb that thrives in the cool, fall weather of Napa, adds a layer of sophistication and a hint of peppery notes that dance on the palate. A generous grating of Parmesan cheese melds these flavors together into a comforting yet elegant ensemble.

Now, the magic of this dish truly unfolds when it's served alongside the perfect wine. The wine country is not just about the vineyards; it's about the harmonious marriage of food and wine. A lightly oaked or unoaked Chardonnay, such as the ones from Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, complements the creamy texture of the arancini while offering a refreshing palate cleanse with its acidity. For those who lean towards red, a lighter, earthy Pinot Noir like those from Carneros Estate can resonate with the earthy pumpkin and sage flavors. And if you are up for a little adventure, a glass of Vermentino from Ryme Cellars in Sonoma with its bright acidity and citrus notes can offer a contrasting palate cleanse from the rich, creamy arancini.

Crafting these arancini is like weaving the culinary fabric of Napa and Sonoma, where each ingredient tells a story. As you bite into the crispy exterior, you are greeted with a soft, creamy center where the pumpkin and sage sing the song of fall. The wine not only complements this melody but adds its own notes, creating a symphony of flavors that is rich, layered, and evocative of the wine country’s essence.

Including this dish in your menu is like extending an invitation to your guests to take a sensory journey through Napa. It’s a perfect appetizer that sets the tone for the courses to follow. Whether you pair it with a hearty meat course or a delicate, vegetable-centric dish, the Pumpkin & Sage Arancini holds its own, offering a comforting yet refined taste of what Napa and Sonoma have to offer.

The beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity paired with the sophistication of flavors. It’s a representation of what Napa Valley is all about – a place where the rustic meets the refined, where the old-world charm meets the new-world innovation. As the arancini take a golden hue in the frying pan, the kitchen fills up with the aroma of sage and pumpkin, signaling the arrival of fall.

So, the next time you find yourself in the heart of wine country, let the season guide your culinary exploration. Pick up some fresh pumpkins from the local farmer’s market, a bunch of sage from a roadside stand, and a bottle of local wine. And as you craft these Pumpkin & Sage Arancini, let each step be a celebration of the land, the season, and the endless possibilities that come when food and wine come together in a beautiful, delicious harmony.

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Pumpkin Puree

The hero ingredient in our Pumpkin & Sage Arancini recipe is the humble pumpkin puree. This velvety smooth puree brings a subtle sweetness and earthy notes to the dish, embodying the essence of fall. The rich, amber hue of the pumpkin puree not only lends a beautiful color to the arancini but also a comforting warmth that is synonymous with autumn in Napa Valley. The nutrient-dense pumpkin is packed with vitamins, particularly vitamin A, making it a wholesome choice for a heartwarming meal. Its versatility extends beyond the arancini, finding its way into pies, soups, and even lattes, making it a staple in many fall recipes.

How to Perfectly Shape and Fry Your Arancini

The art of crafting the perfect arancini lies in the shaping and frying. Here's a step-by-step guide to achieving that golden, crispy perfection:

  1. Shaping: Once the rice mixture is cooled and firm, use a scoop or your hands to shape it into 1-inch balls. Ensure your hands are slightly wet to prevent sticking.
  2. Dredging: Set up a dredging station with three shallow bowls for the flour, beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs. Roll each rice ball first in the flour, then the egg, and finally in the breadcrumbs, ensuring they are well coated.
  3. Frying: Heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a deep skillet or pot to 350°F. Fry the arancini in batches to avoid overcrowding, which could lead to uneven cooking. Cook until they are golden brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes, then drain on paper towels.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I make the rice mixture ahead of time? Absolutely! You can prepare the rice mixture a day in advance and store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to shape and fry the arancini.
  2. What can I use instead of pumpkin puree? Sweet potato puree or butternut squash puree are excellent substitutes for pumpkin puree, offering a similar texture and sweet, earthy flavor.
  3. Is there a gluten-free alternative for the breading? Yes, you can use gluten-free flour, gluten-free breadcrumbs, and ensure the other ingredients are gluten-free to make this dish suitable for those with gluten sensitivities.
  4. How can I reheat leftover arancini? The best way to reheat arancini is in the oven at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes until they're warmed through and crispy again.
  5. Can I freeze the arancini? Yes, you can freeze the shaped and breaded arancini before frying. When you're ready to enjoy them, fry straight from the freezer, adding a couple of extra minutes to the frying time.

Tips for Success

  1. Quality Ingredients: Use fresh sage and high-quality pumpkin puree to ensure the flavors are vibrant and true to the dish's essence.
  2. Maintaining Oil Temperature: Keeping a consistent oil temperature is crucial for achieving a crispy exterior while ensuring the inside is cooked through. Use a kitchen thermometer to monitor the temperature.
  3. Serving Immediately: Arancini are best enjoyed hot and fresh. Serve them right after frying to maintain the perfect contrast of crispy outside and creamy inside, paired with a glass of wine from one of the local vineyards like Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards or Carneros Estate, to elevate the whole dining experience.

Recipe Overview

Pumpkin & Sage Arancini
Lily Anderson
24 arancini
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List


  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. In a large pot, bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Stir in the Arborio rice, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is cooked and the mixture is creamy, about 18-20 minutes.
  2. Stir in the pumpkin puree, Parmesan cheese, chopped sage, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Allow the mixture to cool, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until it's firm enough to handle.
  3. Once chilled, shape the rice mixture into 1-inch balls.
  4. Set up a dredging station with three shallow bowls. Place the flour in the first bowl, the beaten eggs in the second, and the breadcrumbs in the third.
  5. Roll each rice ball first in the flour, then the egg, and finally in the breadcrumbs, ensuring they are well coated.
  6. Fill a deep skillet or pot with about 2 inches of vegetable oil and heat it to 350°F. Fry the arancini in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan, until they are golden brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes.
  7. Drain on paper towels and garnish with fresh sage leaves if desired. Serve warm.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

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