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Arancini di riso - Rice Balls

  • 35 minutes
  • Medium
  • Appetizers
In this typically Sicilian recipe, the rice and the meat sauce pair together to form an unique and irresistible flavor.

Ingredients: Per 4 servings

  • lb Rice
  • 7 oz breadcrumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ¾ oz butter
  • 3 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Italian "00" flour or all-purpose flour to taste
  • 1 whisked eggs bread crumbs
  • 7 oz ground pork
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 oz tomato paste
  • 1 ¾ oz shelled pea
  • 2 oz Pecorino primo sale (sweet and soft sheep’s milk cheese)
  • 2 oz caciocavallo cheese, grated
  • deep frying peanut oil to taste
  • 1 pinch saffron


Boil the rice in a quart of boiling salted water with a pinch of saffron. Cook over medium heat for about  15 minutes, stirring continuously until all of the water has been absorbed.

Remove from the heat and, in a large bowl, mix in with the beaten eggs, the butter and the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Allow to cool and meanwhile prepare stuffing.
In a saucepan over medium heat, add oil and meat sauce: mix it with the peas, salt and pepper and cook until sauce has reduced down by over half and is fairly dry.

Mix together the meat mixture, Pecorino primo sale (or Pecorino dolce cheese) and grated Caciocavallo cheese (or Parmesan cheese).

With moist, but not wet hands, form a 1 to 1½-inch ball of the rice mixture in the palm of one hand, and using the other thumb, make a depression as deep as the first joint of your thumb.

Place some of the meat mixture in the hole and cover with rice.
When all the balls are formed roll them in flour, then dip them in the beaten egg, followed by the breadcrumbs.

Fry the rice balls until brown and heated through, turning them as necessary, about 4 minutes.
Transfer the rice balls to paper towels to drain.

Season with salt and serve hot.

Food History

The Sicilian rice snacks known as arancini were probably made for the first time during the Saracen domination. Available throughout the island, arancini can be found in various forms: the most common are round and come from Western Sicily, while arancini from the Eastern part of Sicily are often cone shaped, recalling the image of Mount Etna. In addition to varying in shape, arancini vary also in the ingredients used for the filling. Meat sauce is the most typical filling, but vegetables and fish are also used. On December 13th, sweet, chocolate-filled arancini are made for the festival of Santa Lucia. Tomatoes, a fundamental ingredient in many Italian recipes, were introduced to Sicily in the 19th century while the arancini date back to around the 10th century when the Arabs controlled Sicily. At this time, a large serving dish filled with saffron rice was often placed in the center of banquet tables. The rice was enriched with meat and vegetables and guests were invited to eat the food with their hands. Originally, Sicilian arancini were simply balls of rice with various condiments. A couple centuries later, the rice balls were breaded and fried. This change in the recipe is attributed to Frederick II.

By breading then frying the arancini, the king and his court were able to conserve the rice allying them to bring the balls with them on long trips or when hunting. Arancini became both easily transportable and quite satisfying. Still today, arancini are considered a snack to be eaten on the go and is possibly the forerunner to the concept of street food.

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