Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Arancini....Stuffed Rice Ball Fritters

When I told my daughter that I was about to attempt making arancini "little oranges", crispy rice balls packed with a delicious meat and cheese filling, it brought back memories of her stay in Florence. She would often rely on these "fast food" rice balls for a quick inexpensive lunch. Proof that arancini may have had their humble beginnings in Sicily but are now enjoyed in all parts of Italy and even beyond its borders. While in the process of tackling my first arancini recipe, filling and forming the rice balls, I asked myself "what was I thinking given the "toil and trouble" involved?"  I could have easily purchased them at one of my favourite Italian stores. Determined to finish what I had started, I managed to make eight perfectly formed rice balls stuffed with veal and cheese. Straying from the traditional recipe, I opted not to use the"ragu" tomato sauce in the meat mixture. One crunchy bite and I was hooked, already dreaming of  possible filling combinations for the next attempt. Arancini are traditionally fried but I decided to once again turn to my trusted panko crumbs to turn out a baked version which could be just as crispy and tasty. Mission accomplished!!! These delightful fritters adapted well to my "no frying zone" take on the recipe. Yes, I should definitely have stocks in a panko breadcrumb company and join Jamie Oliver's  "Food Revolution". A totally healthy recipe with all the flavours and crispiness you would expect but none of the grease. The trick was to process the panko breadcrumbs to a fine texture and drizzle extra virgin oil on the finished rice balls before baking them. I simply rolled each ball on some oiled parchment paper so that they they were totally coated with the rich flavours of extra virgin oil, and to ensure that they turned out golden brown.


1½ cups Arborio rice
1/8 teaspoon saffron
1 tablespoon hot water
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese

1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 small onion finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella (cut into small cubes)
1/2 cup frozen peas
Breadcrumb Coating:
1 cup flour
2 eggs beaten
1-1½ cups panko crumbs (processed fine with a food processor)

In boiling salted water cook the rice to "al dente". Drain and let cool. Stir in the saffron which has been soaked in a tablespoon of hot water (this will give it an orange colour). Stir in the beaten egg and 1/2 cup of grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the onion for about 3 minutes. Add the veal and brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the parsley and peas and cook for another minute or two.  Let cool. Mix in the mozzarella cubes and  3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese.
 Take a handful of the rice mixture in your left hand and make a hollow with your thumb. Spoon in a heaping teaspoon of the meat/cheese mixture into the hollow. Take some more rice to cover the meat mixture and form a ball (about the size of a very small orange). Once you have finished forming the arancini balls, dredge each one in some flour, then roll them in the beaten egg and finish off by rolling them in the breadcrumbs.
Drizzle extra virgin oil over the surface of the arancini. Bake in a preheated 375º F . Turn them midway through the baking to ensure that all the surface is golden. Total cooking time 30-35 minutes


  1. This is usually my favorite when attending a cocktail party serving finger food... yum!

  2. Anna you are very clever, arancini are not easy to do!This is my recipe, take a look...Have a nice day....

  3. A first, every recipe I've seen for these little gems was for cheese stuffing. I have become inspired to try them now.

  4. Wayne, if you do decide to make the recipe, may I suggest using the "ragu" sauce for more flavour. Although my personal tester liked the arancini,he felt that they were a bit bland. I will probably jazz them up a bit more the nest time and keep the troops happy. LOL

  5. Chiara,I did check out your version and was duly impressed. Your recipes are always so well executed. I left a comment on your blog. "buon giornata" to you as well.

  6. Kimberly, Thanks for visiting and signing up as a follower. I really appreciate the support.

  7. Anna, you are making me crazy. I have never made arancini but love the ones from Pina's bakery in Ville LaSalle. I am looking at a recipe right now from Sicily in La Cucina, regional cooking from Italy and they call for tuma in the filling and not muzzarell'. Sounds interesting.

  8. Oh yum, yum, yum! I've never attempted these for the same reason, they seem tedious but you've swayed me now, going to have to give them a try!

  9. I love little bites like this! Such a great list of ingredients...the flavor must be wonderful. Great idea!

  10. Liza, I used regular mozzarella this time around but the tuma sounds interesting. I suggest you also go with the some "ragu" (no not the jar type.... lol) for some flavour. My in house tester found my arancini on the bland side.

  11. Hi Karen, I enjoyed the mild flavour but my husband found them somewhat on the bland side. Regardless, they didn't last so they weren't that bad after all. however the next time I will probably try them with a bit of tomato sauce in the filling, as suggested in the original recipe.

  12. Hi Ava, I think with some practice it would get better. Good luck with your batch, should you decide to give it a go. Also, you might want to tweak the filling mixture for more flavour.

  13. OH, man, I need some RIGHT NOW! When are you coming over? :-)

  14. Serene, I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe. I will be entering your name in the giveaway contest. Best of luck!

  15. The images look mouth watering. If you are every lucky enough to get to Palermo try them at the Foccacceria San Francesco. They are sublime there (and the place is a tradition.

  16. Joshua, thanks for the suggestion. They must be out of this world as Sicily is the birth place of this recipe.