Arancini (Rice Balls) and a Rice Blog Hop

Arancini (Rice Balls)

I didn’t think I could love risotto more than I already did. But take leftover risotto, roll it into rice balls, stuff them with cheese, bread and deep fry and you’ve got an entirely new beast. Called arancini (which means little oranges in Italian), this Sicilian specialty is a vegetarian bar snack worth trying. They’re crispy on the outside with a melty, gooey surprise in the middle. And they’re way easier to make than you may think. They require cold risotto so it’s the perfect use for leftovers (and in fact I developed this recipe for an article on leftovers for the next issue of TreeFree Food).I like to make arancini with a basic risotto, like Risotto Milanese (minus the saffron for an even simpler base), but you can use your favorite risotto recipe or whatever you have leftover. I’ll have to try it with my carrot risotto or saffron and butternut squash risotto, and I bet bright red arancini made with beet and barley risotto would be a show stopper. You can also play around with the stuffing by filling the rice balls with your favorite cheese. Something slightly firm with a low melting point works best; try subbing smoked mozzarella or taleggio for a slightly different flavor profile.

Arancini (Rice Balls)

The key to making perfect arancini, besides using cold risotto, which is firmer is to deep fry them in plenty of hot oil. Now is not the time to get lazy or health conscious. I like to use a small pot so it’s easy to fill it with enough oil to cover the arancini, then work in batches. Make sure the oil is hot enough by putting the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil; if it bubbles around the handle then it’s ready (I learned that tip from Orly of Cook in Israel). Or, a more dangerous tactic is to splash a drop of water into the oil to see if it sizzles.

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Arancini (Rice Balls) and a Rice Blog Hop
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These vegetarian rice balls are the ultimate vegetarian appetizer for a cocktail party. They also freeze beautifully, so you can make them ahead and heat them as desired.
Recipe Type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Yield: Makes about 20
  • 3 cups cold, leftover risotto
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan
  • 3 oz (85 g) mozzarella, cubed
  • ¾ cup breadcrumbs
  • Frying oil
  1. Put the risotto, egg, and Parmesan in a large bowl and mix to combine.
  2. Scoop up a small handful of the cold risotto and form into a ball. Push a cube of mozzarella into the center, and smooth the risotto over so it is fully covered. Roll around in your hands to make sure the ball is even. Repeat with remaining risotto and mozzarella (if the risotto starts to stick to your hands so much that you can’t form a ball, put the risotto in the fridge for a few minutes and wash your hands, then start again).
  3. Put the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl.
  4. Roll each risotto ball in the breadcrumbs so they are evenly coated. Transfer to a plate or baking tray. Refrigerate while you heat the oil.
  5. Pour frying oil into a small pot so it comes up 4 inches or so. Heat over medium-high heat until very hot (you can test it by putting a wooden spoon in the oil to see if it bubbles).
  6. Working in batches, carefully lower one risotto ball at a time into the hot oil. Fry, turning around every so often, until evenly golden brown all around. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate or tray and continue with the remaining risotto balls.Serve immediately with marinara sauce, if you like, or keep warm in the oven.
  7. Alternately, you can let the arancini cool then arrange in an even layer on a baking sheet and freeze. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer. When ready to serve, bake directly from the freezer in a preheated oven for 10 minutes or so - they're good as fresh!
Kosher Dairy, Vegetarian

To make gluten free, use gf breadcrumbs.

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35 thoughts on “Arancini (Rice Balls) and a Rice Blog Hop

  1. Robin from Israel

    I love the cheesy ones, but the best arancini I ever ate were the meat and cheese filled ones at a Sicilian lunch counter type spot in Rome. Sort of a cheesy sausage-y bolognaise inside an arancini ball.


  2. john@kitchenriffs

    I definitely need to make these sometime – these are great. I’ve been seeing them on restaurant menus lately, so it looks like they’re getting popular again (I remember seeing them on menus ages ago, then they kind of disappeared). Anyway, what great flavor! And pretty easy (once you conquer one’s fear of frying!). Good stuff – thanks.

  3. mjskit

    Your arancini look delicious! I love the cheese oozing out of the middle. I’ve always wanted to make these so I was thrilled to see your recipe and instructions! I hope to have some on my table soon! Thanks for hosting another week of your wonderful blog hop!

  4. Eileen

    Oh, these look so great! I love arancini, but never make them at home–the deep frying is kind of scary. But if you can get such amazing results…maybe I should steel myself and dive in! 🙂

  5. Lisa

    Would you believe I have not ONE rice dish on my blog? Not even rice pudding which is one my favorite desserts in the world. That said, I love arancini and yours look amazing! Around here, they like to add beef and peas in the middle, but as long as they’re loaded with cheese, I’ll take them in any form 🙂

  6. Manu

    I love arancini! I also make a meat version… we traditionally make them the 13th of December to celebrate St. Lucia (it’s a tradition from Palermo)! 🙂

  7. Kim

    These look delicious. I think I’m going to have to make some risotto so I have leftovers! Thanks for hosting the blog hop and have a wonderful rest of the weekend!

  8. Hannah

    Your recipe and photos are so tempting, Katherine! I just had arancini at a restaurant for the first time and it was love at first bite. I look forward to making them at home now. What a terrific theme for a blog hop!

  9. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    This is definitely one of my favorite appetizers to order at Italian restaurant and we did past weekend when we were on a trip to Carmel. It’s so good and kids love eating these. It’s much inexpensive to eat at home so I appreciate your recipe! Will give it a try the next day when I make risotto!

  10. Abigail Murdock

    I’m not a fan of deep fried cakes, but this is my mother’s kind of snacks. Your arancini rice balls looks great, crispy and yummny. Thanks Katherine Martinelli for sharing this tasty recipe.

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