|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 27g||34%|
|Saturated Fat 9g||46%|
|Total Carbohydrate 83g||30%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||20%|
|*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.|
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.
Click Play to See This Classic Sicilian Arancini Rice Ball Recipe Come Together
- For the Rice
- 10 1/2 ounces 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 yellow onion, about 1/2 small, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons carrot, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons celery, finely chopped
- 3 ounces ground beef
- 3 ounces ground pork
- 2 tablespoons dry red wine
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 cup tomato purée
- 1/3 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
- For the Rice Balls
- Optional: 4.4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, diced, you can leave this out for a slightly lighter/less cheesy arancino
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup water
- Pinch salt
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 2 inches vegetable oil, for frying
Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, Sicilian arancini is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.
Make the Rice
Gather the ingredients.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the rice, saffron, and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer about 15 to 20 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed.
Remove lid, stir in grated Parmigiano, butter, salt, and pepper, to taste.
Spread the rice out on a large plate or baking dish to cool completely to room temperature.
Make the Meat Sauce and Filling
Gather the ingredients.
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.
Add the ground beef and pork and fry, stirring often, until browned—about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the wine and let cook until the alcohol aroma has reduced, about 1 minute.
Stir in the tomato paste and tomato purée, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
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.
Transfer the filling to a bowl and set aside to let it cool.
Assemble and Fry the Arancini (Rice Balls)
Gather the ingredients.
Once the rice and filling are completely cooled, start shaping your rice balls.
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.
Place about 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center and 1 to 2 small cubes of diced fresh mozzarella (if using).
Then gently close the rice around the filling to form either a round ball shape or a cone/pear shape.
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.
Spread the breadcrumbs in a plate or baking dish.
Gently roll each ball first in the egg-flour-water-salt mixture, letting any excess drip off.
Then roll them in the breadcrumbs until evenly coated.
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.
Heat about 2 inches of neutral frying oil to 360F.
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.
Transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
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.