Crispy on the outside with a cheesy and meaty center, Arancini is a well-known Italian classic that hails from Sicily. Every family has its own version, but the most common fillings are just a few. It’s composed of breaded balls of risotto that have been stuffed with flavorful creamy fillings and then fried to crisp perfection. In this arancini recipe, we cover 2 types that are both easy to make and absolutely delicious!
Arancini are basically balls of cooked risotto rice that have been stuffed, coated with breadcrumbs, and then fried in hot oil until beautifully golden brown and crisp. They are said to have originated in the 10th century in Sicily when it was under Arab rule and are believed to possibly have been inspired by the middle eastern kibbeh. This is also around the time that saffron was introduced and added to risotto.
In Sicily, arancini are a common street food served year round that you can easily find in Palermo, Cantania, and Messina. Yet, they can be served as a lovely appetizer as well as a snack or quick lunch. The Italian rice balls can be filled with both savory and sweet ingredients. For example, arancini con cioccolato is filled with chocolate! This is why different shapes are used to distinguish one filling from another.
However, the most common types are arancini al ragu, which is filled with a meaty ragu and arancini al burro, which is filled with a mixture of ham and cheese that has been mixed with bechamel. And these are the 2 varieties that we will be covering in this recipe.
To start, you need to cook the rice to al dente. Just like when making traditional risotto, it’s important not to overcook the rice for the best texture. Then chill it for at least 3 hours. The rice must be cold in order to both form and stuff the arancini.
While the rice is cooking you can prepare the two fillings. Once they are made, they both need to be cooled off just like the rice. Room temperature is fine for them. Then whisk together the batter to bread the arancini and move on to the next step.
Before you begin making the arancini you want to have everything you need laid out like an assembly line. This includes the cooked chilled rice, fillings, batter, and breadcrumbs as well as any baking trays or racks you are using. Being organized will make the process a breeze.
To make the arancini first form 18 tennis ball size portions of chilled rice into balls. The rice must be chilled to do this step. Then keep 9 of them as balls and form the 9 into an oval shape. Now, place all the molded rice balls onto a baking sheet or a baking dish lined with parchment paper and let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Giving them this time to rest will make them easier to fill.
Once they have sat for 30 minutes, grab one of the risotto balls in one hand and make a hole on the top of it using the thumb of your other hand. Next, make the hole bigger by carefully pushing down into the center. Do this one risotto ball at a time, placing them back on the tray as you finish making a hole in each one.
Now, divide both of the fillings into 9 portions before you begin stuffing the Italian rice balls. The round balls will be filled with ragu and the ovals will be filled with the ham mixture and then molded into cones. To do this, take a rice ball and fill the hole with the portioned out filling. Then push the filling down while pushing the rice over it to close the hole. Finally, roll the stuffed Italian rice ball in your hands to form its shape and smooth out any cracks. This is also when you will turn the ovals into cones. Again, do this one arancini ball at a time and then place it back on the tray.
Here you see a ham and cheese filled arancini formed into a cone shape after being filled.
Now that the arancini are stuffed and formed, you need to bread them. First, give your batter a quick whisk to make sure it’s smooth. Next, dip each rice ball into the batter.
Then add it to the bread crumbs and roll it around to coat. You will want to press the breadcrumbs into the balls with your hands to help them adhere. Then set the breaded arancini back on the tray and continue with the rest.
Here’s the traditional shape of the Sicilian ball. This is what your meat sauce breaded and filled rice balls will look like before being fried.
To begin, heat the oil to 390°F in a deep pot. For safety reasons, it’s important that you do not heat the oil until just a few minutes before you are ready to fry the arancini and use a kitchen thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature. Then add the breaded arancini to the hot oil and fry them for about 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. You may need to fry the arancini in batches depending on the size of your pot. Then place the fried arancini on a wire rack or paper towel lined plate to drain a bit of the oil and serve immediately.
The most common reasons that arancini doesn’t hold together is due to overstuffing the rice balls or not letting your rice mixture chill long enough in the fridge to become compact.
No, it will not work. This authentic recipe has no egg in it and lower starch rice will not hold together without adding an egg.
Yes! The rice used to make arancini is essentially risotto so it will work.
Traditional arancini recipes like this one do not include eggs. The cooked arborio rice and grated cheese are what hold the rice balls together.
Yes! You can make them up to 2 days in advance, which makes them perfect for parties. Then when ready to serve, just reheat them in the oven at 350°F for about 10 minutes.
Cooked arancini will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days when stored in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap. To reheat, simply pop them in the oven at 350°F for a few minutes to crisp them back up.
Yes! Once cooled, just wrap them in plastic or put them in an airtight container and you can freeze them for up to 3 months. To warm, no need to defrost. Just lay them on a baking sheet or a baking dish still frozen and put them into the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes at 350°F.
Other street food recipes to try out!
Other traditional recipes: