Eat Like Montalbano: Arancini

Written by Linda Sarris
Photos by Anna Trifirò - LAND Collective

EDITOR’S NOTE: Long time Detective Montalbano fans are well acquainted with Salvo’s passion for Sicilian cooking. As we get ready for two new Montalbano feature films to be released on June 12th, we thought we’d try something new and offer up some “Montalbano inspired” recipes. Chef Linda Sarris, a professed Montalbano fan and bi-annual resident of Palermo, Italy, crafted this series of delicious recipes that will compel you to book your airfare to Sicily immediately. So, we encourage all of our fellow Montalbano fans to try these recipes at home, invite some friends over, and watch these new Montalbano films in true Sicilian style!
— MHz Choice

One of the world’s most famous street food dishes is Sicily’s arancini, also known as rice croquettes. Salvo Montalbano treasures the ones made by his cook and housekeeper Adelina. Arancini are made with a base of saffron rice balls stuffed filling, breaded and fried until golden brown to resemble their namesake, small oranges. The saffron rice can be made especially for this recipe or as a way to use up leftover risotto from another meal. The traditional filling is made with a meat ragu that Montalbano says takes Adelina a full two days to prepare all of the ingredients. The real secret in the preparation of her ragu is the whole pieces of meat that break down as it slowly cooks in the sauce.

In Palermo and on the western part of Sicily, they are known as arancine, using a feminine name to relate to the small orange shape and color. On the eastern side of Sicily, specifically in Catania they call them arancini, a masculine name for rice balls that are shaped like a small cone to imitate the volcanic shape of Mt. Etna. The most common filling for arancini is a tomato-based meat ragu with green peas. Across Sicily, there are many creative options for the filling such as “al burro” with ham and bechamel, spinach and mozzarella, or sometimes even a sweet version with pistachio cream. In this recipe, we chose a less traditional filling of bitter greens with ragusano cheese for a great vegetarian option. Ragusano is an unpasteurized stretched-curd cows milk cheese from a special breed of Modicano cows in the southeast part of Sicily. A substitute for the ragusano cheese in this recipe could be a provolone or caciocavallo.

In one of the more famous Detective Montalbano stories, he turns down several invitations for New Year’s dinner in order to ring in the holiday at the home of his housekeeper, Adelina. He even dodges the opportunity to join his fiancée, Livia, for celebrations in Paris. For Montalbano, it’s all about Adelina’s menu – he knows she’ll be serving her famous arancini to celebrate the new year and the recent release of both her sons from prison. As usual, he gets swept away with a case on the night of the party. And in typical fashion, he’s more worried about missing the arancini rather than Adelina’s son’s possible involvement as a suspect in his criminal investigation. In the end, her son gets off the hook and Montalbano makes it back in time for the New Year’s Eve dinner, starring Adelina’s arancini in all their sumptuous glory. With napkins wrapped around each wondrous creation, everyone at the party eats with their hands and enjoys the juicy ragu filling pouring from Adelina’s legendary rice balls.

get the recipe online: Eat Like Montalbano


About the Chef
Linda Sarris is a Greek-American private chef from New York City. After culinary school, she took off for an internship at a farm-to-table cooking school in Italy. She fell in love with the culture, the local food, wine, and Sicily’s magical sunshine. Under her brand, The Cheeky Chef, Linda organizes biannual chef-led food/wine tours and is writing a self-published travel ‘zine called SNACK Sicily. She splits her year between cooking for female entrepreneurs in New York City and freelance travel consulting in Palermo.

AMARO: the bitter tastes of Sicilian food and culture

Amaro is a film that brings to life the narrative of Sicilian food and culture through the exploration of a single taste: bitter.

Amaro is the story of the complexity of food culture in Sicily. The film delves into the island’s gastronomic history, highlights present day culinary traditions, and follows the hands and hearts of a people who have embraced the most remote, least valued, and often disregarded taste: bitterness. The film talks of the foraging traditions of an agricultural state, where gathering bitter greens was a last resort, a symbol of need. It follows the Good Friday ceremony, an event in the small town of Caltanissetta where local foragers, representatives of the bitter taste, transform from marginalized to celebrated as they lead the town’s celebratory procession. Amaro also talks of its namesake, the Italian digestivo that is truly an expression of place, with coveted recipes that vary drastically by the available wild bitter herbs in each community.

Finally the film takes us from the streets and fields into the homes of Sicilian locals. In the kitchen, bitterness plays a leading role in food alchemy, transforming what could easily be discarded into delectable dishes and products with unique flavors and mythical traditions. From honeys to cheeses, and sautéed cardoons with anchovies to risotto with wild asparagus, bitterness serves to elevate the other tastes we sometimes take for granted and brings us back to our roots: of the land, of the culture, and of tradition. From field to fork, Amaro follows a flavor that has helped shape the Sicilian food identity.

DONATE on Kickstarter to help fund this project.

Fabrizia Lanza    is the director of the  Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School  and travels around the world to produce events focusing on Sicilian cuisine in renowned restaurants. These have included Alice Water’s Chez Panisse and Mario Batali's restaurants Lupa and Del Posto, to mention only the most famous. Fabrizia is the author of  Olive, A Global History  and the cookbook  Coming Home to Sicily: Seasonal Harvests and Cooking at Case Vecchie . She shares her vision and abundance of knowledge about the Sicilian food landscape as the creative designer of the project. As the face of the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School, she promotes the film and its mission both locally and abroad.

Fabrizia Lanza is the director of the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School and travels around the world to produce events focusing on Sicilian cuisine in renowned restaurants. These have included Alice Water’s Chez Panisse and Mario Batali's restaurants Lupa and Del Posto, to mention only the most famous. Fabrizia is the author of Olive, A Global History and the cookbook Coming Home to Sicily: Seasonal Harvests and Cooking at Case Vecchie. She shares her vision and abundance of knowledge about the Sicilian food landscape as the creative designer of the project. As the face of the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School, she promotes the film and its mission both locally and abroad.

WELLNESS MERCANTILE: the warmth of sharing meals

Through my own work as a Reiki Master, Holistic Health Coach and Intuitive Brand Strategist, I have met some incredible and inspiring women in wellness along the way. I wanted to create a platform that celebrates this movement towards a collective consciousness. Through community and connection, The Wellness Mercantile is exploring ways to support each other.
— Erica Joy Dunn, founder of The Wellness Mercantile

The Warmth of Sharing Meals

words + recipe by Linda Sarrisimages by Katie June Burton @katiefresca

I started working in the culinary world when I turned 25. Leaving an office job and transitioning into something that really made me happy was a big leap. Two things that I am discovering in my growth as an entrepreneur are that you need to take care of yourself and you need to foster relationships that strengthen you. Freelancers get caught up in the hustle (especially in New York City) oh too often. We have to hunt, search, and scrap for jobs. Every day is different but that is what makes it terrifyingly exciting. 

Taking care of yourself could mean a balance of eating well, exercising, positivity and self love. Being my own best cheerleader, even when I think I'm bullshitting it, just keeps me moving forward. Surrounding yourself with strong people who lift you up is the second part; whether it's a mentor, a lover, a partner, a client or a friend -- we can't do it on our own. After cooking school, I was lucky to receive a scholarship that sent me to Sicily and into the hands of my mentor, Fabrizia. But it's no longer luck that keeps the adventure alive, it's the choices I'm making that allow me to build relationships, continue learning and growing. 

While traveling in Sicily this fall, I had an opportunity to work the olive harvest in a town called Sambuca di Sicilia. What comforted my heart while being away from home was of course the satisfaction of eating local and seasonally but also the combination of warm Sicilian sun and even warmer people. Whether I was sitting on the ground in the shade of an olive tree splitting a panino and some pomegranates with a farmer or cooking together with friends sharing the meal with their family of perfect little loud Italian children in the comfort of their homes, eating together is a ritual that I love more than any other. 

Most of the time, I'm the one in the kitchen but sharing meals or cooking together is the best way to comfort yourself, thank friends, cheer them up or celebrate! I usually save it for date number three with new guys. Risotto is something I make when I need to wash away the winter blues. I can whip it up with items from the pantry and it's always a crowd pleaser. The recipe is simple but requires focus. You need to dedicate your time and cannot be distracted with other things. In this vegetarian recipe, I use broccoli rabe paired with a new harvest Italian extra virgin olive oil and some stinky strong cheese on top. I like to add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end to brighten it up. The balance of bitter greens with high-quality oil and salty cheese are guaranteed to warm your belly. 

Linda Sarris is a private chef who splits her time between Brooklyn and Italy. She finds inspiration from her badass female CEO clients and cooking mentors abroad. Linda travels often for research and work-study programs including an upcoming Sicilian food/wine tour with guests from May 6-12. Follow her culinary storytelling through instagram @thecheekychef and

RECIPE: Broccoli Rabe Risotto

serves 3

  • 1c. arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 4T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2c. white wine
  • 3c. vegetable stock
  • 2 bunches of broccoli rabe, 6c. of trimmed sprigs
  • 3T unsalted butter
  • 1/2c. parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
  • sea salt and flakey finishing salt
  • black pepper
  • lemon
  • funky cheese like pecorino, taleggio or an earthy castelrosso to finish the dish

Trim tough stems from the broccoli rabe and remove large outer leaves. Add the florets to a pot of heavily salted boiling water, cooking until bright green and softened. Blanch in ice water to stop the cooking, drain and set aside. In a wide flat-bottomed pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil on medium. Add the onion, cooking until softened and translucent. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable stock in a separate pot and grab a ladle. Add all of the rice to your risotto pan and stir to coat with the oil and onions. Toast for a few minutes then add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Sti continuously with a wooden spoon so the rice doesn't stick to the bottom, allow the wine to absorb a little bit into rice and burn off the rest.

Start adding 1 ladle of broth at a time until fully absorbed. Lower the heat to just simmering and always keep stirring. The whole process should take about 20 minutes. Cook to your desired doneness; the rice should stick to your teeth (al dente) but not feel too crunchy. Stir in the broccoli rabe for a few minutes just before the rice finishes cooking. Turn off the heat and finish with butter and grated cheese for the "mantecatura" step. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. The butter and cheese will melt and make the risotto creamy. Finish with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil, flakey sea salt and a few bits of funky cheese. 

Cheeky's Risotto Notes:

  • Measure 1 espresso cup of dry risotto rice per person. It's the perfect amount.
  • Chop your onions smaller than the size of the rice.
  • Wine, olive oil and salt are very important. Don't skimp on quality.
  • Serve right away; both risotto and pasta waits for nobody.

DINNER IS SERVED: interview with Six Degrees Society

I met Linda, aka The Cheeky Chef, back in July just hours before she jetted off to Italy for 72 hours. As we settled into a West Village cafe for a late lunch,right off the bat, I was drawn to her and her energy and knew we needed to work together. Any person that enjoys, eating, traveling and meeting new people, I’m a huge fan of! I told her immediately about an idea I had for an “oyster shucking” event in NYC that I had been toying with hosting later in the summer. As an “Oysters 101”, everyone would learn how to shuck their own oysters and make the classic oyster sauces... and I wanted to call it, “Go Shuck Yourself.” Linda, as a fan of mediocre puns herself, jumped on board to teach the class.

Like all great entrepreneurs, Linda didn’t start her career as a chef. She had a typical corporate job and developed an itch for something greater. Pretty soon she launched her side hustle, which has evolved into and now her full time job. Read more about Linda’s journey to becoming The Cheeky Chef and we hope to see you on August 29th for our “Go Shuck Yourself” event at Coworkrs Gowanus.

1. How did you become The Cheeky Chef?

The name itself came from working with a lot of British friends on a cruise ship during university. I started a food blog, The Cheeky Chef, to write about all the exciting things I was discovering while traveling around South America and Europe. When I moved to NYC for a job in book publishing, food blogging as a hobby became more of an obsession and eventually led me to changing careers. Once we share a few glasses of wine together, you'll know why I'm called Cheeky.

2. What sort of cooking do you specialize in? What are the pros of being an independent chef?

I specialize in Italian farm-to-table cooking. After working in Sicily and Tuscany, I developed a love for artisanal Italian products, fresh seafood, and seasonal produce. The best aspect of being an independent chef is being able to see people enjoying your food. There's nothing better than sharing a few bottles of wine, tearing crusty bread with your hands, and passing plates of food to the people you love. These are the kind of parties I like to cater and the kind of dinners I enjoy most.

3. What's your favorite thing to cook? What's one thing you think everyone should know how to cook?

My favorite thing to cook is seafood. I think it tells a story of the place it comes from, the way wine does. When you buy your own seafood, they say it should smell like the sea (and not fishy). I love the way raw oysters, shrimp and scallops have that fresh delicious taste of the water. I find so much joy in visiting fish markets, snapping loads of photos, asking questions, watching the fishmonger’s every move, and being a pain in the ass to pick out just the things I want. The way I approach my job as a Chef, is by learning as much as I can about the products I use and sharing those stories with the people who enjoy my food.

Besides the most basic cooking technique of knowing how much salt to put into pasta water, I think everyone should be able to build a campfire.

4. What's been one of the coolest projects you've worked on?

I guess the career I created is pretty cool in general. When I finished cooking school, I worked with a group called A Razor, A Shiny Knife, and we threw a dinner party on the subway in New York City. We built tables that hung from the handrails and served a multi-course meal to just 12 guests with the help of about 60 volunteers. As the only female head of one of the Chef teams, I created a hot soup course. We plated garnishes like crisps of prosciutto, perfect morel mushrooms, and a black garlic puree in the bowls. Then, I came through the busy train car with a silver kettle, pouring an electric green spring ramp soup into the bowls. Collaborating on projects like this through my career has given me boosts of creativity and the benefit of working with a team.

5. What advice would you tell 21 year old Linda?

Be brave! It's the same thing I tell 32-year-old Linda every day. Be brave in your career, with your heart, and in defending whatever you believe in. I woke up one day with a steady 9-5 office job and thought I don't want to do this anymore. I started secretly going to cooking school at night and finally turned my life into something I really love. I never wanted to work in restaurants but knew I needed that experience to develop the skills to go out on my own. Whenever I've been given opportunities for adventures or new experiences, I always say YES! When you feel brave (sometimes it means faking it), you can try something new and even if you fall down, you just keep learning.


CHEEKY NEWSIES: oh, hello august


Team CHEEKY is going strong these days with a kickass all female crew. I am so lucky to have such talented, hardworking, and most importantly sweet people to work with and represent The Cheeky Chef. We have kept busy this summer catering some memorable events in the city (like a backyard dîner en blanc wedding in Greenpoint) and heaps of weekend barbecues and bachelorette parties out in the Hamptons. We are going to keep summer rolling all the way into September.  



You heard it here first! Cheeky is teaming up with Six Degrees Society for a juicy co-ed networking sesh + oyster shucking lesson. Tickets include 2 curated networking matches for young professionals, a hands-on oyster lesson, small bites + bevs.

$35 early bird tickets | SIGN UP HERE


I hope you guys are getting down on some cool watermelon salads this month. It is blazin'! The summer has treated me well so far with a quick jaunt to northern Italy to celebrate my culinary mentor's wedding (che bello), most sunny Mondays have been spent lounging at Rockaway Beach with a cold beer, and we have had a boat-load of exciting events with many of my favorite repeat clients. We have dates available if you still need to book your August/September events

There are a few top secret collaborations in the works so stay tuned to these Cheeky Newsies for updates and invites.

xo, L

cheeky interview with journalists from Norway

CHEEKY was recently featured on the WELOVENYC website. Check out her video interview and a little apartment tour inside Lo Studio Sfacciato, Linda's Bushwick, Brooklyn headquarters.

The Cheeky Chef’ Linda creates top notch dinners to New York private parties, with a specialty in Italian cuisine. Apparently she also has a spiritual side, and before this visit she needed to rid the apartment of some bad juju...
— we love nyc

out with a bang! May 2nd Italian Food + Language Class

Fluent City Series: Italian

For a fun-filled night curated by The Cheeky Chef, join us at The Brooklyn Kitchen as Chef Linda Sarris partners with Williamsburg's foreign language school Fluent City for an instructive culinary and language evening! We'll teach you the basics of traditional Sicilian cuisine (something I've been studying for the last 5 years!) as my own Fluent City language instructor offers vocabulary and phrase lessons alongside. No prior cooking or language knowledge required.

On Monday, May 2nd we will be making Sicilian street food while Professoressa Sandra helps us with Italian phrases along the way. At the end of the night, we sit down together to eat and drink, closing out the night with a bang.

Tickets are $85 each and include the hands-on cooking lesson, Italian instruction, food/drinks and a special in-store student discount. Purchase your tickets online. Join me for my last class teaching at BK.

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 from 6:30-8:30PM

The Brooklyn Kitchen: 100 Frost Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211

CHEEKY newsies

NEWS from the cheeky chef
Feeling like you're the last to know about all of that cheeky goodness? These newsies will help.


After spending the last two summers private cheffing in Southern Tuscany (aww, poverina!), I have decided to stick around and hustle in the Hamptons this year. Let's do this thing. I'm currently booking dates for catered parties in NYC and the Hamptons through the next few months. Spring/Summer dates start to fill up quickly! If you're interested in booking dinners with THE CHEEKY CHEF this summer, start checking your calendar and scoop the dates you want as early as possible. 
I have week day and weekends available in June, July + August. Available for private dinner parties, cocktail soirées, and multi-day private cheffing jobs.
Have a rooftop in the city or a backyard in Brooklyn? A turkish love-den with coffee table and fancy pillows? We have you covered. Wanna fly me somewhere? Also down for that.



$85 tickets include a cooking lesson, beers, dinner + in-store discount

$85 tickets include a cooking lesson, bevs, dinner + in-store discount

$75 tickets include a hands-on lesson + in-store discount

$85 tickets include a hands-on cooking lesson, wine, dinner + in-store discount
Join Brooklyn Kitchen and Williamsburg's foreign language school Fluent City for an instructive culinary and language night! We'll teach you the basics of traditional Italian cuisine as a Fluent City language instructor offers vocabulary and phrase lessons alongside. o prior knowledge required!



Interested in working with the Cheeky Chef?
I am currently looking for freelance bartenders/servers to help on special events.
Food service experience and happy faces are required.
Have some alcohol/wine, bread, sweets, oysters, breath mints you want to share?
We are happy to join forces to partner on special events. I help you + you help me. EMAIL:  

Have you heard about my new project, SNACK SICILY? 

Linda Sarris, a private chef based in Brooklyn, has spent the last 5 years learning about Sicilian cuisine with research trips, farm stays, cooking classes and adventures through fishmarkets, vineyards + salt-pans. Her new project SNACK is a chef's guide to the food/wine of Sicily. 

Follow @snacksicily on instagram + twitter.
Stay tuned for updates on the website and a printed guide coming soon! 

valentine's cooking lesson with GRANA PADANO

I've been teaching classes at The Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg for the last 10 months. Last night we hosted a special hands-on italian cooking lesson sponsored by GRANA PADANO cheese. Here is my recipe for a valentine's themed beet risotto. Buon Apetito e Buon Amore!

Beetroot Risotto with Grana Padano Frico  (serves 8)
3 c. rice for risotto - either carnaroli or arborio (80g per person)
2 large white onions, small dice
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. white wine
7 c. vegetable or chicken stock, hot
4 large red beets, scrubbed clean
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 c. Grana Padano cheese, grated
sea salt
black pepper
1 candy-cane or golden yellow beet, raw but scrubbed clean

Roasting beets
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Rub the beets with olive oil then wrap up in packets of aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes-1 hour depending on their size until a knife can easily pierce through. Open packets to let steam out. While wearing plastic gloves, rub the skins off with paper towels.  

Grana Padano Frico (makes approximately 20 pieces)
1/2 lb. Grana Padano cheese
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch of fresh thyme, washed and picked

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet tray with a piece of parchment paper then grate cheese into small piles without touching each other about 2 inches wide. Grind black pepper and sprinkle a little bit of fresh thyme leaves over each pile. Bake at 375 for 7 minutes until cheese melts and spreads out to form thin cheese chips. Remove the oven and cool to room temperature. Carefully remove frico from the tray without breaking and use as a garnish. Reserve the rest of the picked thyme for the risotto.

Beetroot Risotto
In a dutch oven or wide skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sweat until softened and translucent. Stiring continuously with a wooden spoon. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable stock in a separate pot equipped with a ladle. Bring stock to a boil then turn it off. Add all of the rice to your risotto pan and stir to coat with the oil and onions. Toast for a few minutes then add the white wine and deglaze the pan. Scrape the rice from the bottom of the pan and allow the wine to absorb into rice and burn off.

Lower the heat to just simmering. Next, we start adding a little bit of broth at a time. Add 1 ladle of broth to the rice and stir continuously until the liquid is absorbed. It's important to keep stirring and not be distracted with other things. As the rice soaks up the liquid, add another ladle and repeat as needed. The whole process should take about 20 minutes but you can check by tasting a grain of rice every now and again. Add the chopped red beets to the risotto about half-way through and continue cooking the rice. The rice should stick to your teeth (al dente) but not feel hard. It will be tender as the risotto becomes creamy.

When you reach the desired doneness of the rice, turn off the heat and finish with butter and grated cheese for the "mantecatura" step. Stir in the butter cubes and make sure they melt all the way through. Finish with grated cheese and stir to combine into a nice creamy risotto. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve immediately and garnish with paper-thin sliced raw candy-cane or golden beet, the Grana Padano frico and fresh thyme.


special events in 2016!

Hey loves! Landed back in NYC in the fall after a few months working in Italy again. Pretty excited to share some news for 2016!

I started teaching cooking classes at The Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg so you can check out the schedule on my events page. After a crazy fall/winter holiday season, I'm back to basics with the steady weekly meal prep jobs for a few families in Manhattan and Brooklyn as well as some new adventures...

In January, I was invited for a kitchen take-over event in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with Adelina's Wine Bar. The chef/owner Toby Buggiani scouted me on instagram while I was working and traveling around Capalbio this summer in Southern Tuscany. He offered his restaurant up for a kitchen takeover this week where I created my own special menu for the night featuring Sicilian dishes to promote my new project SNACK sicily

Stay tuned in 2016 for cooking classes and other special events coming up! 

Join the Cheeky mailing list and get on the invite list. 

Thanks for following along!

love from Lou. xx


my happy place

I wrote a small piece for my Italian language class this week. A poem, a love letter, to my favorite place on earth. Maybe you will understand. xx

il mio posto felice

Io ho un posto speciale, dove vado prendere un inizia fresca. Vado per trovare la mia famiglia. Vado per sentire la natura madre e assaggiare la sua frutta della terra. Quando arrivo in Case Vecchie, io aspetto nel fronte del giardino per assorbire la magica del questo luogo. Prima, Io vedo Giovanni e lui guarda su quando sente la mia macchina. Lui lavora ogni mattina in questo giardino e dopo va in cucina prendere un caffè con noi. Io sento Giovanna nella cucina. Lei fa la marmellata con la frutta fresca del stagione. Ascolto le bolle nella pentola e sento l’odore lo zucchero in aria. Le galline sono nel cortile. Loro giocano con il piccolo Giuseppe, anche se loro non piace. È possibile rimanere qui in la mia posto felice vicino la palma vecchia. Fuori e lontano dalla vita della città, io ho il mio pezzo di paradiso.