Classic Sicilian Arancini (Arancine di Riso)

Classic Sicilian arancini rice balls on a serving dish

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 60 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Total: 105 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
700 Calories
43g Fat
52g Carbs
26g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 700
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 43g 55%
Saturated Fat 8g 41%
Cholesterol 108mg 36%
Sodium 496mg 22%
Total Carbohydrate 52g 19%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 26g
Vitamin C 8mg 41%
Calcium 126mg 10%
Iron 6mg 34%
Potassium 583mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Arancini, rice balls stuffed with sauce and peas, are one of the best-loved Sicilian snacks and street foods. They have become increasingly popular throughout Italy and worldwide.

The filling in this recipe is one of the most classic—a meat ragù, green peas, and melty mozzarella. The rice is scented with saffron and the rice balls are rolled in breadcrumbs before frying them into croquettes. Usually, they're made with caciocavallo cheese, but since that can be difficult to find outside of Southern Italy, Parmigiano-Reggiano is used in this recipe.

There is considerable debate among Sicilians as to whether this dish should properly be called arancini (masculine) or arancine (feminine). You may have seen this dish spelled both ways. In western Sicily, it's argued that these rice balls are usually called arancine because that word means "little oranges;" the balls are round and like arancia, the word for orange in Italian.

In eastern Sicily, arancino is the term more commonly used and it's usually made in more pear-shaped form because, it's believed, the term comes from the name of the fruit in Sicilian dialect: arànciu. At this point, arancino has become the more widely diffused name, particularly in English-speaking countries.

Whether you call them aracini or arancine, these delectable rice balls can be eaten as an antipasto or snack, or even as a meal when coupled with a salad or soup. They're commonly served with marinara for dipping.

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Click Play to See This Classic Sicilian Arancini Rice Ball Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

For the Rice:

  • 10 1/2 ounces (1 1/2 cups) short-grain rice, such as Vialone Nano, Carnaroli, or Arborio

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron

  • 1 1/2 cups water

  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • 4 teaspoons unsalted butter

  • Fine sea salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Meat Sauce and Filling:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion, from about 1/2 small onion

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped carrot

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped celery

  • 3 ounces ground beef

  • 3 ounces ground pork

  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine

  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup tomato puree

  • 1/3 cup green peas, fresh or frozen

For the Rice Balls:

  • 4.4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, diced, optional (leave out for a lighter, less-cheesy arancino)

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 pinch salt

  • 2 cups breadcrumbs

  • 2 inches vegetable oil, for frying

Steps to Make It

Make the Rice

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for rice filling for arancini gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the rice, saffron, and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil.

    Rice and saffron in water in a saucepan

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer about 15 to 20 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed.

    Saffron and rice simmering in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  4. Remove lid, stir in grated Parmigiano, butter, salt, and pepper, to taste.

    Parmigiano, butter, salt, and pepper added to saffron rice in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  5. Spread the rice out on a large plate or baking dish to cool completely to room temperature.

    Saffron rice mixture spread out on a baking sheet to cool

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Make the Meat Sauce and Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for meat sauce for arancini gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and sauté, stirring often, until softened and the onions are translucent—about 8 to 10 minutes.

    Carrots, onions, and celery cooking in olive oil in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. Add the ground beef and pork and fry, stirring often, until browned—about 5 to 8 minutes.

    Ground beef, carrots, celery, and onions in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  4. Add the wine and let cook until the alcohol aroma has reduced, about 1 minute.

    Red wine along with ground beef, carrots, celery, and onions in a pot with a wooden spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  5. Stir in the tomato paste and tomato purée, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

    Tomato paste and puree stirred into ground beef, celery, carrots, and onions

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  6. Add the peas and continue to simmer the sauce for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the peas are tender and the sauce is thickened. It should not be too liquidy.

    Peas added to meat filling for arancini

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  7. Transfer the filling to a bowl and set aside to let it cool.

    Rice balls filling cooked and cooling in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Assemble and Fry the Arancini (Rice Balls)

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for frying the arancini gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. Once the rice and filling are completely cooled, start shaping your rice balls.

    Rice in a sheet pan and meat filling in a bowl for arancini

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of rice in the palm of one hand, then use your fingers and thumb to shape it into a hollow bowl shape.

    Rice shaped in the palm of a hand for arancini

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  4. Place about 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center and 1 to 2 small cubes of diced fresh mozzarella (if using).

    Rice in palm along with meat filling and mozzarella for arancini

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  5. Then gently close the rice around the filling to form either a round ball shape or a cone/pear shape. 

    Rice formed around the filling for arancini

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  6. When all of your arancini have been formed, whisk together the flour, eggs, 1/2 cup of water, and a pinch of salt in a shallow bowl until smooth.

    Eggs, water, flour, and salt whisked together in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  7. Spread the breadcrumbs in a plate or baking dish.

    Breadcrumbs spread onto a plate

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  8. Gently roll each ball first in the egg-flour-water-salt mixture, letting any excess drip off.

    Arancini ball rolled in egg, flour, and salt mixture

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  9. Then roll them in the breadcrumbs until evenly coated.

    Rice ball rolled in plate of breadcrumbs

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  10. At this point, you can refrigerate your arancini for 20 to 30 minutes to let them firm up if they seem a bit too loose or liquidy. If not, you can go directly to frying.

    Rice balls on plate rolled in breadcrumbs

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  11. Heat about 2 inches of neutral frying oil to 360 F.

    Oil in deep pot for frying arancini

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  12. Fry your arancini in batches of just 2 to 3 at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the pot until they are evenly golden brown, about 3 minutes.

    Arancini balls frying in oil

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  13. Transfer them to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.

    Arancini fried and draining on a paper towel-lined plate

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  14. Serve hot.

    Arancini (rice balls) on a platter

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  15. Enjoy.

    Classic Sicilian arancini rice balls, one with the inside filling exposed

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Variations

Meat, cheese and peas make for a classic aracini, but there are endless combinations of fillings, including pistachios, mushrooms, prosciutto, sausage, and mozzarella, ham, spinach, fontina, and more.

How to Store and Freeze Arancini

Arancini can keep in the fridge for up to 5 days if covered. They're best reheated in a hot (400 F) oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. This allows the exterior to get crispy again and the interior to get melty. However, you can eat them cold, too, if desired.

Arancini can be frozen for a couple of months. Just freeze on a baking sheet, transfer to a zip-close bag, and freeze for up to two months. Bake, frozen, at 400 F for about 15 to 20 minutes.