Learn how to make arancini di riso or Italian rice balls which are nothing more than fried risotto! You can use a leftover risotto or make a fresh one. Most of the times they're stuffed with mozzarella or another cheese but you can certainly leave them plain.
What is arancini
Arancini is Italian delicacy made of risotto balls coated with bread crumbs and then deep fried.
Arancini means little oranges in Italian and the moment you see these golden orange colored rice balls you understand why.
The classic Italian arancini recipe was usually made with leftover risotto.
This was a genius way to use the leftover rice and make it into a different recipe the next day, especially because leftover risotto loses all its gloriousness once it gets cold.
Hence the saying in Italian restaurants that “the risotto doesn’t wait for the you, you wait for the risotto”.
Arancini can be made without a filling, and most old recipes are made as such.
I suggest not stuffing them if you use a risotto recipe with added ingredients like pumpkin, mushrooms, fresh herbs, saffron, etc.
If you use a plain, basic risotto recipe, then the stuffing will give the added flavor which will make these fried balls of rice extra tasty.
If you decide to stuff them, the most common ingredient is mozzarella cheese (afterall, who can say know to a mozzarella stuffed crispy fried risotto ball?).
The addition of meat sauce, such as this spaghetti sauce with ground beef (Bolognese) or tomato sauce (like this homemade pizza sauce recipe with canned tomatoes) is also added sometimes, and you may also find recipes using peas.
Stuffing them with tomato sauce (which is liquid) can be tricky for someone who makes them for the first time, so I suggest to just serve the tomato sauce as a dip next to the fried risotto balls.
In the photos you see on this article, I used some leftover pumpkin risotto and decided to stuff them with some feta and pancetta.
How to make arancini
Follow this easy step-by-step guide to make prefect Italian rice balls every time!
Make the risotto and let it cool completely. Detailed instructions for how to make risotto you can find in the article: creamy porcini mushroom risotto without wine.
Take about ¼ of a cup of cooked risotto and flatten it on the palm of your hand (a small ice cream scoop is perfect for this job). Don’t make it too thin, because the filling can ooze out during deep frying.
Place a tablespoon of the filling (or a cube of mozzarella) in the center of the rice, close the rice around the filling and shape into a ball. Press gently between your palms until the rice ball feels solid.
If you’d like to make pear shaped arancini, gently flatten their bottoms and make the top more pointed with your hands.
Optionally, cool them in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up (don't let them in the fridge longer because very cold arancini will drop the temperature of the frying oil).
Roll the arancini in flour, then roll them in the beaten egg and lastly roll them in the breadcrumbs.
Heat some oil in a deep fryer or a deep saucepan or pot until it is very hot (approximately 350°F or 175°C).
Add the arancini, a few at a time, and cook 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a piece of paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
Tips for success:
For the best results, please try to keep the rice al dente. This is very important, since it will help you forming the arancini balls without the rice turning into mush.
The risotto should be cold. it's best to make from the previous day and store it in the fridge or make it a few hours before and let it cool completely.
Keep the size of the rice balls small, since they will fry better without the chance of falling apart. The rice balls should be the size of a small tangerine, or a little larger than a golf ball. For the same reason, also keep the quantity of the filling (if using) small.
Use short-grain rice suitable for risotto such as Arborio.
If you make arancini with a mushroom risotto make sure that the mushroom pieces are small, as this will help the arancini hold their shape during cooking.
Some extra grated parmesan when making the risotto can help to bind the mixture better.
Some people like to add an egg as binding agent. I don’t find it necessary, but you may want to try it, especially if your arancini fall apart during frying.
The mixture will be a little sticky. Keep your hands lightly wet while shaping and rinse them every 3 or 4 arancini.
Don't move them around too much during frying. Just flip them once and remove when done.
For more info about this traditional Italian recipe, read the article the history of arancini from mamanapolifoods.com
Once cooled, you can transfer the arancini in an airtight container and store them in the fridge for 3-4 days. To reheat, place on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven (350°F / 175°C) for 12-15 minutes.
I haven’t had the chance to test this recipe with an air fryer, but from what I've heard it works very well! The only different think you'll do is to spray or gently brush the arancini with olive oil before air frying them.
Yes, totally! Place the arancini on a tray and store in the freezer for 1-2 hours until hard. After that, transfer them in an airtight zip log bag. You can then reheat the thawed arancini on a cookie sheet in a hot oven.
Traditionally, no egg is added in the risotto mixture for arancini balls (except the beaten egg you use before you coat them in breadcrumbs). However, if you have problems with the arancini falling apart during frying, then you can add an egg to act as a binding ingredient.
As with most deep fried foods, the frying temperature of the oil should be around 350°F or 175°C.
According to giolittideli.com there are two main recipes of Italian fried rice balls: the Roman suppli and the Sicilian arancini. The two types are basically the same with their main difference being that arancini can also contain ground beef and peas.
Italian fried rice balls recipe (risotto arancini)
- 1 saucepan
- 1 deep fryer or pot
For the risotto:
- 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) olive oil
- 1 (1) small onion (finely chopped)
- 1 (1) garlic clove (whole, crushed)
- 1.5 cups (300 g) short grain risotto rice (such as arborio rice)
- 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) salt
- ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) dried thyme or Italian seasoning (optional)
- 3.5 cups (830 ml) chicken broth or vegetable broth (warm)
- 1 cup (240 ml) milk
- 1 cup (240 ml) grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) butter
For the filling:
- 4 oz (110 g) mozzarella cheese (cut into ½″ cubes OR 2 oz feta and 2 oz pancetta, in small cubes)
For the coating:
- ½ cup (60 g) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) fine salt
- 2 (2) eggs (beaten)
- 2 cups (120 g) panko breadcrumbs
- Cooking oil (olive oil or another vegetable oil)
Make the risotto:
- Place a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil, the onion and the garlic. Cook stirring often, until the onion is soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).
- Discard the garlic clove and add the rice, the salt, the black pepper and the thyme. Toast the rice for 1-2 minutes and then start adding the broth one cup at a time, stirring often and waiting for most of the broth to be absorbed before adding the next cup. The risotto should slowly simmer during this process.
- Once you have added the 3 cups of broth, add the milk, the grated Parmesan cheese and the butter. Stir vigorously to help the rice release its starch.
- When the risotto looks thick and creamy taste and add more broth if needed until it is al dente. Also, adjust the salt to your taste.Take the risotto off the heat and transfer it to sheet pan to help it cool more quickly (for better results store it in the fridge overnight).
Prepare the coating:
- Transfer the flour and the salt in a shallow bowl or plate and stir to combine.Whisk the eggs in a second bowl.Add the breadcrumbs to a third shallow bowl or plate.Line two baking sheets or cutting boards with parchment paper.
Prepare the filling:
- Cut the mozzarella into ½ inch cubes and keep chilled in the refrigerator until ready to use.If you use feta and pancetta, cut them in small cubes, transfer them to a bowl and mix to combine.
Make the arancini:
- Lightly wet your hands, take approximately ¼ of a cup of cooked risotto and flatten it on the palm of your hand (a small ice cream scoop is perfect for this job). Don’t make it too thin, because the filling can ooze out during deep frying.Place a cube of mozzarella or a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the center of the rice, close the rice around the filling and shape into a ball.Press gently between your palms until the rice ball feels solid. Then place the arancini on the parchment lined baking sheet.If you’d like to make pear shaped arancini, gently flatten their bottoms and make the top more pointed with your hands.
- Optionally, cool them in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up (don't let them in the fridge longer because very cold arancini will drop the temperature of the frying oil).
- Roll the arancini in flour, then roll them in the beaten egg and lastly roll them in the breadcrumbs and press to coat.Tip: use one hand for the flour and the other for the egg and Panko. This way only one of your hands will be "dirty" with egg.Place them on the other parchment lined baking sheet.
- Pour 1 inch (2.5 cm) depth of oil in a deep saucepan or a deep fryer and heat until hot (approximately 350°F or 175°C).Add the arancini into the hot oil, a few at a time, and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a piece of paper towel to absorb the excess oil.Repeat with the remaining of the rice balls.
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