Arancini Recipe | How to Make Sicilian Rice Balls

Arancini recipe, a typical specialty of Sicilian cuisine; a mouth-watering street food, loved all over the world.

Arancini are small rice balls, round or cone-shaped, stuffed with meat sauce, peas and caciocavallo cheese, or simply with ham and mozzarella, breaded and then fried. They have a crispy crust that hides a soft and tasty heart which, due to its golden color and shape, bring to mind an orange (it: arancia), hence the name “arancini”.

authentic arancini recipe

Here we’ll show you how to make the traditional and most famous recipe of Sicilian Arancini, which, according to tradition, are usually made on December 13, the day of Saint Lucia.

In the arancini recipe the main preparations are basically 3:

  1. make a saffron risotto: it must be used cold, so you can even make it the day before
  2. make a meat sauce, similar to the Bolognese sauce (even this the day before if you like)
  3. prepare diced ham and mozzarella

After, it’s a question of putting together the ingredients to assemble the arancini and then frying.

The result will amaze you and you will bring to the table the most delicious arancini ever made!

Try other traditional Sicilian recipes: as Cannoli and Pasta alla Norma.

How to Make Arancini Recipe

  • Prep Time: 60 Min+ the cooling time for the rice
  • Cook Time: 45 Min
  • Yelds: 10 arancini


For the Rice:

For the Meat Sauce Filling:

  • 30 g (1 oz) of onion
  • 30g (1 oz) of celery
  • 30 g (1 oz) of carrot
  • 100 g (3,5 oz) of ground pork
  • 100 g (3,5 oz) of ground beef
  • 200 ml of tomato passata made with our recipe
  • 100 g (3,5 oz) of peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 60 g (2 oz) of caciocavallo cheese (optional)
  • 50 ml dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Fine salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

For the Ham and Mozzarella Filling:

For breading and frying:


How to Cook Rice (sticky) for Arancini Recipe

So first you need to make a creamy and starchy risotto with saffron. The rice will have to cool, so if you like you can do it the day before and keep it in the refrigerator. You’ll need a high-sided non-stick pan to cook risotto.

arancini rice recipe step 1Step 1) – Start by cooking the rice in salted boiling water (alternatively, you can boil the rice in a meat broth). The rice must completely absorb the water; this will allow the starch to remain fully in the pot so you’ll get a rather dry and compact rice. Cook for about 15 minutes, then dissolve the saffron in very little hot water and add it to the cooked rice.
arancini rice recipe step 2Step 2) – Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon, then add the butter cut into small pieces.
arancini rice recipe step 3Step 3)- Add Parmigiano reggiano and stir. Season with salt if necessary. Now you have made a creamy and starchy saffron risotto. Place it on a large plate or tray.
arancini rice recipe step 4Step 4) – Level it carefully with a wooden spoon and then cover with cling film (it’ll prevent the rice surface from drying out and crusting). Now the rice has to cool down so let it do it out the fridge for at least 2 hours.

How to Make Meat Sauce Filling

arancini rice recipe step 5Step 5) – In a non-stick frying pan, sauté the diced carrot, celery and onion in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for 2 minutes. Then add the ground meat. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 4/5 minutes.
arancini rice recipe step 6Step 6) – Then add the red wine and let it evaporate over high heat. Finally add the tomato passata.
arancini rice recipe step 7Step 7) – Leave to simmer, covered with a lid, for about 30 minutes. Halfway through cooking add the peas. If necessary, add a little water. Season with salt and pepper.
arancini rice recipe step 8Step 8) – Warning! The meat sauce must be rather compact. So be careful not to add too much water or not to burn it because it’s too dry. While the sauce is cooking, get ready with the other ingredients: cut caciocavallo, cooked ham and mozzarella into small pieces.

Arancini Recipe: How to Mold Italian Rice Balls

Now we are goig to show you how to mold arancini rice balls with your hands. Need any help? Try out this arancini mold maker or keep reading the recipe.

Trick warning! Keep a bowl full of water next to you: wet hands will help you give the arancini the desired shape.

arancini rice recipe step 9Step 9) – Place one hand to form a basin, as if you would like to collect water. Put the rice in a palm, flatten it with your other hand, creating a hole. Now place the meat sauce (let it cool first).
arancini rice recipe step 10Step 10) – Add 2/3 pieces of caciocavallo cheese (you can use even provolone cheese, anyway adding cheese is optional). Now close the arancini with more rice. Keep adding rice till you will have a sort of ball.
arancini rice recipe step 11Step 11) – Since this recipe is the authentic recipe for Sicilian arancini, you should know that in Italy arancini with meat sauce filling are not round but have the shape of a pyramid. So now we will show you how to get this shape. You have some sort of ball in your hand. Try to reach your hands in prayer, with your palms always concave and turn the rice ball in your hands.
arancini rice recipe step 12Step 12) – Doing so, wet often your hands, it’ll be easier. Then, with the lower part of the palms, give a slight push upwards in order to shape the flat base of the arancini.
arancini rice recipe step 13Step 13) – Now make the arancini with the ham and mozzarella filling, which on the contrary have a round shape. Go on in the same way, filling the hollow with ham and mozzarella. Add rice until the rice ball is completely closed.
arancini rice recipe step 14Step 14) – Now with the help of your (wet) hands, give it the round shape.

How to Fry Arancini Balls

Once all the arancini are made, you can keep them in the fridge for 2 – 3 days (or freeze them) before frying.

arancini rice recipe step 15Step 15) – Now the arancini are ready to be fried. For the breading you can even make a batter with water and flour, but with the eggs the breading is certainly easier. Therefore beat the eggs with the milk and a pinch of salt. Then dip the arancini, one by one, in the eggs, taking care to cover them entirely.
arancini rice recipe step 16Step 16) – Then roll them in the breadcrumbs, pressing lightly with your fingers to make it stick well to the arancini.
arancini rice recipe step 17Step 17) – For frying, choose a pot with high sides, in which to fry in abundant vegetable oil (2 maximum 3 pieces at a time) when the oil is ready at 175°C (350 F). You can find out the perfect temperature with a kitchen thermometer or by dipping a toothpick: if it creates many little bubbles, the oil is ready!
arancini rice recipe step 18Step 18) – Cook for about 2 minutes or till the arancini take on a golden color.
arancini rice recipe step 19Step 18) – Drain on paper towels and enjoy!

How to Store Arancini

You can keep already fryed arancini in the refrigerator for a couple of days. You can heat them in the oven at 200°C (390 F) for 10 minutes before serving them.
You can freeze them raw, only if you have used all fresh and not defrosted ingredients; fry them frozen if necessary.

arancini rice recipe

Arancini Variations

In Sicily there are many variations of Arancini recipe, even more than 30. Among these you can find:

  • white arancini, usually stuffed with a filling of ham and mozzarella;
  • arancini with saffron, which gives the rice its typical yellow color;
  • red arancini, stuffed with meat sauce;
  • vegetarian arancini, stuffed with vegetables;
  • baked arancini, lighter than the classic fried arancini;

Arancini vary even in shape and size. In Palermo they are of considerable size and rounded, in Catania area they are more contained with shapes, that identify the filling:

  • flat base and cone-shaped with meat sauce filling;
  • round with ham and mozzarella filling;
  • egg-shaped with chicken or spinach.

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