Classic arancini are Sicilian rice balls made from leftover risotto stuffed with ragu, prosciutto, cheese, and peas. These little rice balls are dipped in batter, rolled in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. The crunchy exterior gives way to creamy, soft risotto, stuffed with meaty, salty, gooey deliciousness. Serve arancini as is or with a dipping sauce. These Sicilian stuffed riced balls make a great appetizer or side. Serve it with a vinegary salad or a tangy soup, like roasted tomato soup with basil, bacon, and blue cheese.Jump to Recipe
Who Invented Arancini Rice Balls?
Arancini originated in 10th-century Sicily when the island was under Arab rule. It is said that Arabs put saffron rice in the palm of their hand and seasoned it with lamb.
Arancini means "little oranges" in Italian, referring to the color of the crust, and the interior rice, sometimes colored orange with saffron. Sicilian arancini rice balls are an iconic dish of Sicily. These fried rice croquettes are served year-round but are most popular during the Feast of St. Lucy. The Feast of St. Lucy happens on December 13th, which was once the beginning of winter solstice and is the shortest day of the year.
In 1646, a devastating famine fell on Palermo and Siracusa. The devoted prayed to their patron saint Lucy, and ships of wheat miraculously appeared. To honor St. Lucy each year, Sicilians refrain from eating bread and pasta on the days leading up to the Feast, and Sicilian rice balls of delight are consumed instead.
Arancini vs Arincine
There's much debate about the pronunciation of these little fried risotto balls. As much as I can tell, here's the difference: Arancine is the feminine form of the word. Arancine are typically shaped like a ball and are smaller. Arancini is the masculine form of the word. These fried rice croquettes are much larger and shaped like cones to symbolize Mt. Etna.
What Types of Fillings are in Arancini?
Classic arancini are stuffed with a meat ragu, peas, caciocavallo cheese, and bits of prosciutto. They can easily be made vegetarian by stuffing them with marinara sauce and omitting the prosciutto. Sometimes arancini are stuffed with a béchamel sauce and ham, or butter, or eggplant. There are sweet versions of Sicilian rice balls, too, dusted with sugar or stuffed with pistachios or Nutella.
Arancini Baked, Fried, Frozen, Stored and Reheated
I prefer flash-frying arancini and finishing them in the oven. You don't need a deep fryer to fry arancini, but make sure you use a high-sided, heavy-bottomed pot. You want to make sure that the rice balls have enough room to fry around and be fully submerged without touching the bottom. It's also best to use an oil thermometer so that the temperature of the oil stays at 350°F.
You can bake arancini, too. Heat your oven to 400°F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the arancini on the prepared sheet and spray the arancini with cooking spray as well. Bake for 40 minutes, turning the rice balls every 10 minutes or so.
Arancini can last up to three days in the refrigerator and three months in the freezer. To freeze arancini, prepare them as normal, fry them and let them cool. Freeze them on baking sheet lined with wax paper. Once frozen, store the rice balls in a freezer bag. Reheat the arancini in the oven for 20-30 minutes.
Arancini vs. Suppli
Arancini and Suppli are both bundles of risotto joy, stuffed, breaded, and fried. As similar as they are there are differences too.
- Arancini originates from Sicily. Suppli originates from Rome.
- Arancini have a much longer history, created in the 10th century. Suppli date back to 1874.
- Classic Arancini are stuffed with meat ragu, peas, prosciutto, and caciocavallo cheese. Classic Suppli contains sauce that is first mixed in with the rice and then stuffed with mozzarella.
- Arancini are much larger and shaped like a cone or a ball. Suppli are smaller and oblong in shape.
What Rice is Best for Making Arancini?
The best rice for making risotto is the best rice for making arancini, like Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, Arborio. You want to use short-or medium-grained rice that will hold together. I have a great recipe for making risotto. Make a lovely meal of risotto with sausage, onions, and peppers, or spring pesto risotto with seasonal vegetables, and use the leftover risotto to make these creamy, crunchy, cheesy Sicilian arancini rice balls.
Arancini: Sicilian Stuffed Rice Balls with Leftover Risotto
- Oil thermometer
- 5 cups
- 1 recipe ragu (recipe to follow)
- ⅓ cup small dice prosciutto
- ⅓ cup cup diced mozzarella
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cup water
- salt and pepper
- 2 cups Italian-style breadcrumbs
- vegetable oil for frying
Ragu for Arancini
- 1 TBSP butter
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 cup ground pork
- ¼ cup red wine
- 1 cup tomato puree
- ½ cup peas
To Make the Ragu
- In a pan over medium-high heat, melt 1 TBSP butter. Add in 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat.
- Add the diced onion to the melted butter and oil and sauté until onions or soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).
- Add the ground pork to the sautéd onions and cook until brown.
- Deglaze the pan with ¼ cup of red wine, letting the wine reduce and evaporate.
- Add 1 cup of tomato puree and lower the heat to medium. Let the ragu cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peas and let the sauce cook for another 10 minutes. Reseason with salt and pepper and remove the pan from heat to cool.
To Make Arancini
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Hold one rice ball in the palm of your hand. Use the fingers of your other hand to hollow out the rice ball, forming a little nest.
- Add ½ teaspoon of the cooled ragu to the center of the risotto ball.
- Add a few pieces of prosciutto and mozzarella to the center and add another ½ teaspoon of the ragu on top.
- Use your hands to close the nest of rice and form it into a ball, packing it tightly. Repeat with the remaining balls.
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour and the water and season with salt and pepper.
- In another bowl, add 2 cups of Italian-style bread crumbs.
- Dip a rice ball into the flour batter and then into the breadcrumbs, packing the breadcrumbs tightly into the rice ball. Repeat with the remaining arancini.
- In a deep pot, add enough vegetable oil so that the arancini will be completely submerged in oil without the balls touching the bottom of the pot. Use an oil thermometer to heat the oil to 350°F.
- Once the oil is heated to 350°F, use a slotted spoon to gently lower an arancini ball into the oil. Only fry 2 to 3 croquettes at a time. Use the spoon to rotate the risotto balls in the hot oil, preventing them from touching the bottom of the pan. After 15-20 seconds, use the slotted spoon to remove the arancini from the oil and drain them on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Once all the arancini are fried and drained. Place them on a non-stick baking sheet and warm them in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Remove the arancini from the oven and serve.