The ultimate comfort food, rice pudding can be served hot, warm or cold. This recipe jazzes up the plain version by using toothsome Arborio rice for extra creaminess and an assortment of dried fruits for color, texture, and sweetness.
Combine the rice, water, cinnamon stick, and star anise in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and add the pod. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer slowly until the water is absorbed, 10 to 20 minutes.
Stir in the milk, half and half, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and the pudding is creamy and thick, 30 to 40 minutes. The rice should be tender but not mushy or dry.
Remove the pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick and star anise. Remove the vanilla bean, rinse, dry, and reserve the pod for another use.
Stir in the cherries and raisins and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Garnish each serving with a grating of fresh nutmeg.