italian rice balls with asparagus walnut pesto {gluten free amuse bouche}

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amuse-bouche, literally translated, means “to please the mouth.”  i have wanted to create an “amuse bouche” ever since i saw it, i think, on an episode of top chef.  i finally have!  on top of that, this one is gluten-free and the pesto included in the recipe is insanely yummy.  i promise.

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sometimes with seven mouths to feed at mealtimes (and when we get together with friends, there are often over twenty!), presentation goes by the wayside in favor of efficiency.  not this time; i wanted to create something that was practically-impractically-pretty.  just like a little surprise from the chef at an amazing restaurant, i wanted this presentation to surprise and delight.

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(i’m craving asparagus almost daily as it’s in season here; my family, not-so-much.  however, they ate this up like it was going out of style.)  making the pesto with the twist of asparagus was a fun surprise!

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this recipe was created for mccormick gourmet as part of the go 4 gourmet campaign – you can enter your own recipe by clicking here!

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when i saw the “challenge ingredients” of rice, root vegetables, vegetable broth, and garlic, i knew i wanted to try my hand at rice balls.  i also wanted a cool, portion-friendly presentation that would be “safe” for our gluten-free crew of friends and family.

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it’s a bit of work, but well worth it for the treat at the end.  print the recipe and try for yourself!


Italian Fried Rice Balls with Asparagus Walnut Pesto


  • Ingredients:
  • 2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 6 teaspoons butter
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • For pesto:
  • 1 cup roasted asparagus spears (about 20 stems)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


  1. For rice balls, bring rice, stock, water, and butter to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes, covered. Remove from heat.
  2. Stir in carrot, onion, parmesan, feta, tomatoes, capers, garlic, thyme, and salt. Add eggs and using clean hands, work thoroughly into mixture.
  3. Meanwhile, bring 4 cups oil to 300 degrees in a large dutch oven. When oil is hot, use a medium scoop or your hands to form rice into balls, roughly the size of large strawberries. Place 4-6 at a time in hot oil, turning once as it begins to brown. As each ball browns, use tongs or slotted spoon to remove from oil onto a paper-towel lined plate. If desired, salt lightly while still hot.
  4. For pesto:
  5. In a small food processor, combine asparagus, garlic, basil, sea salt, and walnuts. With processor on low, slowly pour in olive oil just until ingredients are combined.
  6. To serve, place a tablespoon of pesto in individual serving dishes. Top with a rice ball and if desired, fresh basil.


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do you have a favorite “fun” food that you love to show off to friends and family?  share your idea or link below!


dancing divider webb

p.s. – although i love to use fresh garlic, i was concerned about it burning in the hot oil.  for this recipe i used mccormick gourmet’s garlic powder as well as their dried thyme.  these added the perfect depth of flavor with the vegetables.

disclaimer acs


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4 Comment

  1. Reply
    April 1, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    They look delicious!
    Nora recently posted…Easter Deviled EggsMy Profile

    1. Reply
      April 6, 2014 at 11:35 pm

      Nora, they ARE! They’re worth the work. 🙂

  2. Reply
    May 9, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    How many does this make?

    1. Reply
      May 12, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      Hi, Kym! I think this batch was about 20. I used a small scoop – about a tablespoon in size, I think. Let me know if you make them! 🙂
      admin recently posted…jennalee and her girlMy Profile

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