This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Arancini are a tradition in the South of Italy. They are risotto balls filled with cheese and/or meat, coated with breadcrumbs and fried. I make regular ones filled with Bolognese, vegetarian and gluten-free, replacing the breadcrumbs and doing some testing.
What are arancini
Arancini are fried risotto rice balls mixed with vegetables, cheese and sometimes meat. Crunchy and crispy in the outside, soft and stringy cheese in the inside. You can find them everywhere in Italy, mostly in the South, in Rome they are called Suppli' and usually have no meat.
The name arancini, means small oranges as the shape of the arancini is round and the size of a small orange. While it is usually called Arancino, with an "o" at the end as in masculine, in Palermo is called Arancina, with an "a" as feminine.
It is a great way to use your leftover risotto, but most people (me) just make them from scratch as they are so good and easy to serve at parties and buffet. They are always a winner.
Arancini are traditional in Sicily, even Camilleri has dedicated an entire book in the Ispettore Montalbano series: Montalbano's Rice Croquettes.
If you happen to fly into Catania airport Fontana Rossa, you can find many varieties at a famous rosticceria: Caffe Parisi, one of the best places for arancini. They make them with meat ragu, eggplants, pistachios. They are definitely worth a trip.
Another excellent place to eat Arancini is on the ferry crossing the Messina strait, Caronte boat. They are made on a cone shape and when you open them you will have a delicious warm melting mozzarella.
Many types of arancini
The classic arancini can be red or white, meaning the rice is cooked only with stock, stock and Saffran or stock and tomato sauce. It can be filled with either a bolognese sauce, mushrooms, eggplants, ham anything you would like.
There are so many ways to make arancini. However, one thing you will be sure, always a cube of melted mozzarella cheese in the centre.
Type of rice
To make arancini you need the same rise used for risotto: carnaroli or Aborio. You cannot use Basmati rice as it will not stick into a ball, or sushi rice as it will be too soft.
The key to its success is to use quality rice, and with ‘Riso Gallo’ you cannot go wrong. They are one of the oldest Italian rice producers and the largest producer in Europe. They have been operating since 1856, and their rice is available in most European supermarkets.
The rice can be prepared like risotto, or simply boiled in water or in stock. Some recipes mix the rice with eggs before forming the arancini, others don't. There are many versions, this is the recipe I always make with great success.
First, prepare the rice
If you want to prepare it the traditional way, you should make the rice as you make risotto.
There are two versions or risotto you can use to make arancini:
- Red risotto: you add 1 cup of tomato sauce in the rice while you are adding the stock
- Orange risotto: adding saffron to the stock
You can use either one, it is just a matter of taste.
Absolutely you can use any leftover risotto, try any type of risotto you like, I am sure they will be great.
If you don't have time to make a risotto, go ahead and just boil your rice in salted water. Once it is drained, just mix it with some butter and parmesan and let it cool down.
Adding the parmesan while still hot it is very important as it will help to keep the rice together.
Preparing the rice as a risotto
- Stir fry the onion with some butter at very low heat, the onion should not burn.
- Once the onion becomes translucent, add the rice and increase the heat. The rice has to toast in the butter so that the grains are sealed. Proceed to cook like a risotto.
- You can either add the tomato sauce to the rice or the saffron to the stock
- The rice should be continually stirred and stock added regularly 1 or 2 ladles at a time. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Once cooked, add some butter, the parmesan cheese and let it cool down at room temperature.
An easier option to consider is adding all the stock at once, and boil the rice for 15 minutes until the stock is completely absorbed. Keep it covered and add hot water if necessary. Add the parmesan while it is still hot.
Prepare the fillings
Prepare the filling for your arancini, you can use what ever you like. For this recipe I used:
- Leftover Bolognese sauce, which I make with the pressure cooker
- Mozzarella cut into cubes
- Boiled peas, I like to add some into the Bolognese and some times even mix it with the rice
- If you don't want to make Bolognese you can also add a cube of ham
- Once the rice is cold add 2 eggs and mix
- Keep a small bowl with warm water and wet your palms every time you make an arancino. It will prevent the rice from sticking to your hands
- Place a ball of rice into the palm of your hand and make it round and flat.
- Place the filling inside
- Cover it with more rice and shape the arancino.
- Usually, the arancini filled with meat are shaped like cones
- While the vegetarian arancini are round-shaped
- First, roll the balls in beaten eggs,
- Then coat them in breadcrumbs.
- Deep fry them
- Lay them on a paper towel to absorb all excessive oil
How to make a gluten-free Arancini
Many Arancini recipes use flour and breadcrumbs to coat them, but frankly it is not necessary. You can coat them with eggs and substitute the breadcrumbs to make them gluten free.
You can use gluten-free bread or panko, however, I did some testing to find a better option:
1. Grated almonds
2. Sesame seeds
3. Rice cakes
You can find Gluten-free rice cake in the supermarkets' bio section. They can be grated at home in a mixer and used instead of breadcrumbs for coating. Once fried they are very similar to breadcrumbs and you would hardly notice the difference.
I tested these 3 options and they all had a great result. You can choose one, or make them all and create a colourful buffet.
My favourite? The almond coated
How to serve arancini
Arancini are one of the most popular street food in Italy, especially in the South of Italy. They can be eaten as a snack or as a quick lunch.
They are very common to serve at buffet parties, especially children parties. You will often find them on a buffet table with Panini filled with ham and salami.
If you plan to serve them at a party, you can prepare them ahead of time and warm them up in the oven just before you serve them. But do not worry, they are also very good at room temperature, I would eat them any time.
More recipes to make with leftover risotto
If you are making these regular, vegetarian and gluten-free arancini leave your comment below I would like to know which one is your favourite. You can find more delicious ideas if you FOLLOW ME on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram or sign up to my newsletter.
📋Rice Arancini Recipe Gluten Free and Vegetarian
For the Rice
For the Filling
Preparing the rice
- Stir fry the onion with butter at very low heat, the onion should not burn.1/3 cup butter, 1 onion diced
- Once the onion becomes translucent, add the rice and increase the heat. The rice has to toast in the butter so that the grains are sealed.1 lb Carnaroli rice
- You can either add the tomato sauce to the rice or the saffron to the stock6 cup homemade stock, 1 cup homemade tomato sauce, 1 pkg saffron
- Proceed to cook like a risotto. The rice should be continually stirred and stock added regularly 1 or 2 ladles at a time. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Once cooked, add the parmesan, some butter and let it cool down at room temperature.1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, 2 tbsp butter
Preparing the fillings
- Boil the peas in salted water for 5 minutes1 cup peas
- Cut the mozzarella into cubes1 cup mozzarella cucina
- Prepare a ragu (you can find the recipe on the blog) and mix some of the peas1 cup bolognese sauce
Preparing the Arancini
- Mix the rice with 2 eggs add more parmesan2 fresh eggs, 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- Wet the palm of your hand with some warm water so the rice will not stick
- Roll the rice into a flat ball to fit into the palm of your hand.
- Place the filling in the middle: 1 tsp of ragu or ham and a cube of mozzarella.1 cup shredded ham
- Close the ball, cover with more rice if necessary and shape the arancino.
- Use different shapes to recognize different fillings: cone for ragu and round for vegetarian
Coating the Arancini
- Put the breadcrumbs into a bowl1.5 cup breadcrumbs
- You can replace the breadcrumbs with grated almonds, grated rice cakes, or sesame seeds1.5 cup sesame seeds, 1.5 cup grated almonds, 7 rice cakes
- Beat 2 eggs2 fresh eggs
- First roll the balls into the beaten eggs, then into bread crumbs
- Once all the balls have been coated fry them in hot oilvegetable oil for frying
- Lay on a paper towel to remove the excess oil
- Eat them warm or warm them up in the oven just before your party or served them at room temperature.
- If you don't have time to make the risotto, you can cook the rice by adding all the stock at once, and boil the rice for 15 minutes until the stock is completely absorbed. Keep it covered and add hot water if necessary.
- Add the butter and the parmesan while the rice is still warm so they melt. The parmesan will help to keep the rice balls together
- Make sure the rice is at room temperature when you add the eggs
- When you are rolling the rice balls, keep the palm of your hand wet with warm water. It will prevent the rice from sticking to your palms and will make the arancini nice and smooth
- Some recipes coat the rice balls with water and flour instead of egg, then breadcrumbs. You can do that if you don't want to add more eggs but not for the gluten-free version
- Shape them either in balls, in cones or in ovals to differentiate the type of fillings
- Best is to eat them warm just made, but you can also eat them at room temperature or warm them up in the oven