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Arancini from Sicily - Rice Balls Stuffed with Mozzarella

ceramic plate from Fifty One and a Half


See the quilt in the opening photograph?  I made that.  A lot of you probably know that I like to make things.  I cook, of course, but I like to knit and sew. I've started writing about what I'm sewing (mostly quilts) for fun and if you are into that sort of thing, I hope you will jump on over to Beech Tree Lane Handmade and follow me there!

Use Arborio Rice to make the risotto 


The recipe I'm sharing with you today is a long time favorite.  It is a popular thing to eat in Sicily. They are fried rice balls, made with risotto and stuffed with various fillings. I've written about them before, making them and stuffing them with meat sauce.  These are smaller and only stuffed with mozzarella.  The risotto is super easy to make - it only takes about 25 minutes and you can make it the day before, which is what I usually do. That breaks up the time it takes to make these over two days. And these freeze great!  So make a batch for the holidays, place them in the freezer until they are frozen and stick them in ziplock bags.  No need to defrost them when you want them - just heat them up in the oven. 

The name arancini comes from the Italian word "arancia", which means orange.  Obviously, these fried rice balls do resemble oranges.  You can make them as big as an orange or as small as a ping pong ball.  It's up to you!  To serve as an appetizer, I do like to make them on the smaller size so they are just a couple of bites. I have made them a bit larger in this post, but you can make them any size you wish. 

I use Japanese bread crumbs, called Panko, for this because I love the extra crispy crust it gives to the arancini. You can certainly use regular bread crumbs if you want to.  

I used to have a Fry Baby for frying foods but after it died, I didn't bother buying another one.  I just use a small sauce pan with high sides to fry things. Works fine. 

these are so delicious - you will love them!

Arancini Stuffed with Mozzarella

for a printable recipe, click here

You can make the batch of risotto the day before, let it cool and stick it in the fridge and then make the arancini the next day if you want. 

If you can't find the little mozzarella "pearls", just buy the larger balls and cube them. 

It helps a lot to have a handled spider strainer to fry these with. 

this recipe makes about 4 cups of risotto - enough to make about 24 small or 16 medium sized arancini 

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons finely minced onions
1¼ cups arborio rice
3 cups chicken broth (approximately)
pinch of saffron threads
¼ cup white wine (optional)
⅓ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
1½ cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
½ teaspoon sea salt
about 24 fresh small mozzarella balls, packed in water (called pearls by some brands)
about 3 cups canola oil, for frying 

In a medium sized saucepan (one with sloping sides, like a Chef's pan, is ideal), heat the oil and onions and saute over medium low heat until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the rice and cook, toasting it a bit, for a couple of minutes. Add the white wine and stir, cooking that for a minute.  Add about a cup of the broth, the saffron and keep the heat at medium low, just so the risotto is actively simmering.  When the broth has been absorbed and you can run a spoon through it and see the bottom of the pan, add more broth.   Don't let the rice stick to the bottom.  Stir and let the rice absorb the broth.  It will take about 25 minutes until the risotto is done.  Taste it and see if the kernels are tender.  Keep adding broth until the rice is just tender and has absorbed all the liquid in the pan (but not mushy - you want just a little firmness) and has absorbed all the liquid in the pan.  Remove from the heat, add the cheese and blend.  Spread the rice out onto a large rimmed metal baking sheet and allow to cool.  You can stick it in the fridge at this point until the next day if you want.

placing the risotto on a metal sheet pan and spreading it out cools it down quickly

you can make the rice balls as small or large as you like -
I also like to make them about the size of ping pong balls
for a great appetizer size. You don't need much rice to 
completely cover the mozzarella 


Once the risotto is completely cooled, transfer to a bowl and add the beaten egg.  Blend and refrigerate again for about 10 minutes.  

In a shallow bowl, blend the bread crumbs with the sea salt.  Drain the mozzarella balls of their water. Get a clean rimmed baking sheet out to put the rice balls on. Take a scant ¼ cup of rice (depending on how big you want the arancini) and place it in your hand. Make a dent in the center, stick a mozzarella ball in and cover it up with the rice.  Form into a ball.  Roll around in the bread crumbs until coated and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with all of the rice until you have all the arancini made. 

Take another rimmed baking sheet and place a  wire rack inside.  This is to place the fried rice balls on.  You can place paper towels underneath the rack if you wish.

Heat the canola oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat (or a fryer if you have one).  Take a kernel of rice and throw it in the oil.  When it sizzles, the oil is ready.  Lower the arancini, three at a time, into the hot oil.  A handled wire spider strainer makes this job easier.  Fry the rice balls until they are golden brown, turning them over every once in a while with the strainer.  Remove from the oil with the strainer and place on the wire rack to drain.  Repeat with all the rice balls. 
You can serve these hot or just at room temperature.  They are great party food because they can sit out at room temperature all evening.  


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Reader Comments (12)

You quilt? So do I! I can't wait to check out your sewing blog. I love that quilt in your opening photo.

December 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBettina

Do you think I could bake instead of fry the balls? I am wondering if I rolled them in olive oil and baked them at a high heat whether they would taste similar? What do you think? Thanks!

December 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPat

From The Italian Dish:

Pat :I have never baked arancini, but if you try it let me know! I bet they will be fine - maybe just not as crispy. If you have a convection oven, I would use that setting.

December 20, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Can you make these in advance and freeze them? I've bought arancini from Trader Joe's but I'd like to make some for a party but I don't want to serve them at room temp nor do I want to fry that day. Have you ever made them, frozen them, and then reheated in the oven?

January 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLily

From The Italian Dish:

Lily: Yes! I mention in the first paragraph of the post that you can freeze them. And they freeze beautifully. I did this myself over the holidays, making a batch the week before Christmas, placing them on a sheet pan in the freezer until they were frozen solid and then putting them in a ziplock and freezing them. When you're ready to make them, just take them right from the freezer, place on a sheet pan and reheat at about 350 until they are heated through (about 10 - 15 minutes). You can even broil them for a few seconds at the end to crisp them up, but most of the time they shouldn't need it, if you used the panko. Hope this helps!

January 2, 2016 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Christmas Eve! I'm always looking for ideas for the family Christmas Eve feast and preparing these the week before is perfect. I have never made these and hadn't thought of them. So much cooking to do for those few days of feeding the hordes! Thanks for you inspiration.

October 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCarmela

No matter which way I try (and I've tried them all - extra long grain rice, Arborio rice, medium grain rice) my rice balls are impossible to shape as they are way too soft.
My grandmother from Palermo used Carolina extra long grain rice, cooked the rice in a large pot with lots of water, and when she was done, made arancino to die for. This did not work for me. My rice is too soft to hold together. After seasoning, I've added several eggs (I've tried adding only 1 egg) and it was still not cooperative holding together.
After researching online, I followed recipes to make a risotto with Arborio rice. This too was too soft when trying to turn the risotto into rice balls.
Today I tried using medium grain rice, which didn't work out for me either.
What am I doing wrong? I am blaming the rice because I don't know where the real problem lies.
I do put the palms of my hand in cold water so the rice doesn't stick to them and that helps, but the arancino does not hold together as a ball firm enough to retain that shape.
I would very much appreciate your thoughts on my dilemma.

December 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNan

From The Italian Dish:

Nan: It is essential that you cool the rice down and refrigerate it. It must be cold when you shape the rice balls. Arborio rice works so well because it releases so much starch and is creamy and holds together so well. Are you refrigerating your cooked risotto?

December 10, 2017 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Dear Elaine,

Please excuse my long-delayed reply to your response. Now that I am able to take a deep breath since Christmas is over, I will have the time to try to try once again to successfully make arancini.

My last attempt I used Goya medium grain rice. I did not make a risotto; instead, I cooked 2lbs of rice in 4 quarts of water until cooked then I set my large colander over a big pot and stirred the rice in the colander so the top and middle grains were able to drain as well as the bottom grains of rice. When there was no evidence of water to drain, I spread the rice out to cool and then refrigerated it overnight.

Even though my rice looks and feels really dry and after adding one egg and all other seasonings, my rice seems to be too wet to hold together in the shape of a ball or cone.

I have the exact same results using Arborio rice and making a risotto. Therefore, it must be something I am doing wrong and not the fault of the rice I've used.

I don't want to give up on my efforts because I would like to pass this Sicilian gem on to my family to embrace throughout their lifetime and future generations of American Italian/Sicilians.

Thank you so very much for your patience and help. It is very much appreciated.
Happy New Year!

December 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNan

Rice balls, made with risotto and stuffed with mozzarella is something new for me. Firstly, I was negatively disposed about this dish because I thought it couldn't be so easy to make and so delicious. But it did. Thank you very much.

I have made these and they are delicious!!! Quick question, can I make the balls and refrigerate them and fry them the next day or should I fry them and reheat in the oven the next day?

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPark City Foodie

From The Italian Dish:

Park City Foodie: You can do it either way - you can assemble the balls and refrigerate and then cook them the next day or you can go ahead and cook them and pop them in the oven to reheat. They freeze great, also. If you are assembling them the day before though, I would wait to roll in the bread crumbs until just before frying, so they don't get soggy. Hope this helps!

April 29, 2019 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

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