Best Sicilian Arancini Recipe (Italian Rice Balls)

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Best Sicilian Arancini Recipe (Italian Rice Balls), or arancini di riso in Italian, made with Arborio rice, filled with ragù, cheese, and peas, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried until crispy perfection. This recipe was adapted from my dear Sicilian friend, Lilli, and they are the real deal!

Make arancini with leftover risotto or my Creamy Parmesan Rice.

three arancini Italian rice balls on a plate with red sauce (sugo) under them as a sauce.
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Best Arancini Recipe

There’s a special joy in creating a dish from scratch, and homemade arancini are no exception. The process might be a labor of love, but the result is well worth the effort, delivering a delicious reward. This is the best arancini recipe!

  • Traditional Flavors: The combination of Arborio rice, Parmesan cheese, ragù sauce, mozzarella, and peas captures the authentic flavors of Sicilian cuisine, providing a true taste of Italy with these deep-fried rice balls.
  • Textural Delight: these golden balls are known for their delightful contrast in texture—creamy, cheesy, and crispy on the outside. This recipe ensures a perfect balance, making each bite a pleasure for your palate.
  • Versatility: These cheesy rice balls can be served as an appetizer, snack, or even as a part of a larger meal. They make a great addition to gatherings, dinner parties, or family dinners.

You will also love these Fried Cheese Balls and Fried Shrimp. Serve Sicilian Cannoli for dessert!

three arancini Italian rice balls on a plate with red sauce (sugo) under them as a sauce. Open rice ball to see the interior and ready to eat with fork and knife.

Simple Ingredients

Sicilian rice balls are so tasty! Once you make them the first time, you’ll think they are one of the best things you’ve put in your mouth. Trust me!

ingredient shot for recipe.
  • Arborio Rice: A short-grain rice variety known for its creamy texture, essential for creating the base of the arancini. You can also use leftover risotto. Make sure the rice mixture is cooled completely.
  • Chicken or Vegetable Broth: Provides flavor and moisture to the rice during cooking, enhancing its taste.
  • Dry White Wine: Adds depth and complexity to the rice, contributing to the overall flavor profile.
  • Parmigiano Cheese: Grated Parmesan cheese enriches the rice, providing a savory and salty element.
  • Salt and Pepper: Used to season the rice, enhancing its taste.
  • Ragù Sauce (Meat Sauce): A rich and flavorful meat sauce that serves as one of the main components of the arancini filling.
  • Mozzarella Cheese: Diced mozzarella adds a gooey and cheesy texture to the filling when the arancini are bitten into.
  • Frozen Peas: Thawed peas contribute a burst of freshness and a slightly sweet flavor to the filling.
  • Oil for frying: hot oil used for frying the arancini, providing a crisp outer layer.
  • All-Purpose Flour: Coats the arancini before dipping them in the beaten eggs, helping the breadcrumbs adhere to the rice balls.
  • Eggs: Beaten egg acts as a binding agent, allowing the breadcrumbs to stick to the arancini balls.
  • Breadcrumbs (Italian-Style): Provide a crispy and golden outer layer to the arancini when fried.
  • Salt and Pepper: Season the breadcrumbs, adding flavor to the outer coating of the arancini.

See the recipe card for quantities.

How to make Arancini Rice Balls

Here are the step-by-step photo instructions to make the perfect arancini.

How to make Sicilian arancini recipe step-by-step photos: making the rice.

Prepare the Rice: In a large pot, bring the chicken or vegetable broth and white wine to a simmer. Add the Arborio rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is creamy. Spread the rice onto a greased baking sheet and let it cool completely. 

How to make Sicilian arancini recipe step-by-step photos: letting the rice cool.

Remove from heat, stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper.

How to make Sicilian arancini recipe step-by-step photos: the ragu, pea, and cheese filling.

Prepare the Filling: Mix the cooled ragù sauce, diced mozzarella, and thawed peas in a bowl.

How to make Sicilian arancini recipe step-by-step photos: placing the rice on a baking tray to cool completely.

Assemble the Arancini: Take a large handful of cooled rice and flatten it in your hand- you can wet your hands with water or lightly grease them if needed.

How to make Sicilian arancini recipe step-by-step photos: filling the inside of the rice balls with the meat filling.

Place a spoonful of the filling in the center and shape the rice around it, forming a large ball. Ensure the rice completely encloses the filling.

How to make Sicilian arancini recipe step-by-step photos: making a ball with the rice and filling.

How to make Sicilian arancini recipe step-by-step photos: rolling the rice ball in flour.

Breading: Roll each rice ball in the flour, then dip it in the beaten eggs, and finally coat it evenly with breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper.

How to make Sicilian arancini recipe step-by-step photos: rolling the ball in breadcrumb mixture.

How to make Sicilian arancini recipe step-by-step photos: rice balls ready to fry.

Frying: Heat olive oil in a deep fryer or a heavy-bottomed pan to 350°F (175°C). Fry the arancini in batches until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per batch.

frying the rice balls in oil.

Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.

rice balls after fried and resting on a cooling rack.

Serve: Allow the arancini to cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve them hot with warm marinara sauce, if desired.

Enjoy these delicious Sicilian arancini as a snack, appetizer, or part of a festive meal!

three arancini Italian rice balls on a plate with red sauce (sugo) under them as a sauce.

Substitutions

  • Rice Substitutions:
    • Instead of Arborio rice, you can use other short-grain rice varieties like Carnaroli or sushi rice. Keep in mind that the texture may vary slightly.
  • Vegetarian Options:
    • If you prefer a vegetarian version, you can replace the meat-based ragù with a flavorful marinara sauce or a mix of sautéed vegetables.
  • Cheese Substitutions:
    • Feel free to experiment with different cheeses based on your taste. Gouda, cheddar, or provolone can be alternatives to mozzarella, and you can explore various hard cheeses instead of Parmesan.
  • Gluten-Free Option:
    • To make the recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free breadcrumbs and replace all-purpose flour with a gluten-free alternative. Ensure that all other ingredients, including the sauce, are gluten-free.
three arancini Italian rice balls on a plate with red sauce (sugo) under them as a sauce. Open rice ball to see the interior and ready to eat with fork and knife.

Variations

Arancini are quite versatile, and you can experiment with different variations to suit your taste. This recipe uses the most traditional filling. Next time you make them try these variations:

  • Vegetarian Arancini:
    • Instead of using a meat-based ragù sauce, create a flavorful vegetarian filling. You can use a combination of sautéed mushrooms, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and a blend of Italian herbs for a delicious vegetarian option.
  • Four Cheese Arancini:
    • Enhance the cheesy goodness by using a mix of four cheeses such as mozzarella, Parmesan, fontina, and provolone for the filling. This creates a rich and indulgent flavor.

How to Store and Reheat

Storing Arancini:

Refrigerate: Allow leftover arancini to cool to room temperature. Place them in an airtight container or wrap them tightly with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Freeze: To store arancini for longer, freeze them individually on a baking sheet (in an even layer) until solid. Transfer the frozen arancini to a freezer bag or airtight container. They can be stored in the freezer for 1-2 months.

Reheating Arancini:

Microwave (for a small number): Place arancini on a microwave-safe plate. Heat in 20-30-second intervals until they are warm in the center.

Oven (for a crispy texture): Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Place arancini on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10-15 minutes (longer if frozen) or until they are heated through and the exterior is crispy.

Air Fryer (for a quick and crispy result): Preheat the air fryer to 350°F (175°C). Arrange arancini in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Air fry for 5-7 minutes, or until they are heated through and crispy.

Top tips for best results

  • Use High-Quality Ingredients:
    • Opt for high-quality Arborio rice, fresh Parmesan, and flavorful cheeses to enhance the overall taste of the arancini.
  • Risotto Consistency:
    • When making the risotto base, cook the Arborio rice to a creamy and slightly sticky consistency. This texture ensures that the arancini hold together well.
  • Allow Rice to Cool Completely:
    • Ensure that the cooked rice cools completely before handling. This makes it easier to shape the arancini without the mixture sticking to your hands.
  • Well-Seasoned Filling:
    • Season the filling ingredients well. The flavors from the ragù, cheese, and other ingredients should be robust to create a tasty center.
  • Compact Filling:
    • When forming the arancini, ensure the filling is compact and completely enclosed by the rice. This helps prevent the filling from leaking during frying.
  • Proper Breading Technique:
    • Ensure that each arancino is thoroughly coated in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. Press the breadcrumbs firmly onto the rice balls to create a crispy outer layer.
  • Maintain Consistent Size:
    • Aim for a consistent size when shaping the arancini. This ensures even cooking, and all the rice balls will be ready at the same time.
  • Heat Oil to the Right Temperature:
    • Heat the frying oil to around 350°F (175°C) for optimal results. This temperature allows the arancini to cook through while achieving a golden, crispy exterior.
  • Avoid Overcrowding the Fryer:
    • Fry the arancini in batches to prevent overcrowding, which can lead to uneven cooking and a soggy texture.
  • Drain Excess Oil:
    • After frying, place the arancini on paper towels to absorb excess oil and maintain their crispiness.
  • Reheat for Crispiness:
    • If reheating, use an oven or air fryer to maintain the crispy texture. Microwaving may result in a softer exterior.

FAQs

Can I make the arancini ahead of time?

Yes, you can prepare the rice and filling ahead of time and assemble the arancini just before frying. Alternatively, you can freeze the shaped arancini and fry them straight from the freezer when needed.

What are arancini?

Arancini are Italian Sicilian rice balls typically made with Arborio rice, filled with ragù, cheese, and peas, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried until crispy. They are a popular snack or appetizer known for their savory flavor and contrasting textures. This is an authentic Sicilian recipe!

Can I bake the arancini instead of frying them?

Yes, you can bake arancini for a healthier option. Brush them with olive oil and bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) until golden brown.

How do you keep Arancini from falling apart?

Ensure that the arancini are well-sealed with rice to prevent any gaps. Press the rice firmly when shaping, and double-check that the filling is completely enclosed.

Looking for other recipes? Try these:

Serving Suggestions

Here are a few ideas to serve with arancini:

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Best Sicilian Arancini Recipe

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5 from 1 review

Arancini di riso in Italian, made with Arborio rice, filled with ragù, cheese, and peas, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried until crispy perfection. This recipe was adapted from my dear Sicilian friend, Lilli, and they are the real deal!

  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

For the Rice:

  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • Salt to taste

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup ragù sauce (meat sauce), any liquid drained if needed
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, diced into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed (optional)
  • Olive or vegetable oil for frying

For Breading:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups plain Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Basil leaves for garnish
  • Tomato sauce for serving

Instructions

  1. Prepare the Rice: In a large pot, bring the chicken or vegetable broth and white wine to a simmer. Add the Arborio rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is creamy. Remove from heat, stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Spread the rice onto a greased baking sheet and let it cool completely. 
  2. Prepare the Filling: Mix the cooled ragù sauce, diced mozzarella, and thawed peas in a bowl.
  3. Assemble the Arancini: Take a large handful of cooled rice and flatten it in your hand- you can wet your hands with water or lightly grease them if needed. Place a spoonful of the filling in the center and shape the rice around it, forming a large ball. Ensure the rice completely encloses the filling.
  4. Breading: Roll each rice ball in the flour, then dip it in the beaten eggs, and finally coat it evenly with breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper. Set the rice balls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining ingredients. 
  5. Frying: Heat olive oil in a deep fryer or a heavy-bottomed pan to 350°F (175°C). Fry the arancini in batches until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per batch. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.
  6. Serve: Allow the arancini to cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve them hot with warm marinara sauce, if desired.

Enjoy these delicious Sicilian arancini as a snack, appetizer, or part of a festive meal!

Notes

Storing Arancini:

Refrigerate: Allow leftover arancini to cool to room temperature. Place them in an airtight container or wrap them tightly with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Freeze: If you want to store arancini for a longer period, freeze them individually on a baking sheet until solid. Transfer the frozen arancini to a freezer bag or airtight container. They can be stored in the freezer for up to 1-2 months.

Reheating Arancini:

Microwave (for a small number): Place arancini on a microwave-safe plate. Heat in 20-30 second intervals until they are warm in the center.

Oven (for a crispy texture): Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Place arancini on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until they are heated through, and the exterior is crispy.

Air Fryer (for a quick and crispy result): Preheat the air fryer to 350°F (175°C). Arrange arancini in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Air fry for 5-7 minutes, or until they are heated through and crispy.

  • Author: Elena Davis
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

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About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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