Arancini di Riso

Arancini di Riso is the Sicilian street food of golden, fried balls of creamy, cheesy risotto filled with a zesty ragu of beef and peas. They’re addictive and possibly the ultimate comfort food.  Serve them with a side of your favorite marinara sauce.

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Wooden serving board with golden, deep-fried balls of Arancini di Riso.

All About Arancini

  • Arancini is a diminutive of the Italian word ‘arancia’, which means ‘little orange’ because of the shape and color of the rice balls.  
  • In Italian, arancini is the plural form of arancino.  In Sicily, however, ‘arancinu or arancino’ is for one, ‘arancine’ is used for two or more.
  • Arancini is said to have originated in 10th century Sicily while it was under Arab control.
  • In Eastern Sicily, the arancini are shaped into little cones to resemble the volcano, Etna.
  • They are often eaten in December during the Feast of Santa Lucia – when you can’t eat bread or pasta.

I discovered arancini while visiting The Palace Of The Normans in Palermo. I was told to grab lunch at a place called Sfrigola.  A short walk found me standing in a long line wrapped around a lovely little cafe with the most heavenly smells escaping the doors.

The line moved quickly to a counter where handsome, charming, and friendly staff fill your arancini in front of you and then fry them to golden perfection. 

You walk out holding a fist-size, golden, crunchy rice ball encasing fillings like ham and cheese, meaty ragu, or cheesy vegetables.  I had to go back several times during my trip to sample a few of the other fillings. They also make a fried pastry dusted in sugar, but that’s a post for another time.


Arancini di Riso

This recipe makes the risotto in the oven, which eliminates having to stand and continuously stir the risotto as it cooks. The filling is a traditional ragu made with tomato sauce, ground beef, and peas.

While this isn’t a difficult recipe, it is a three-step process and takes time. Consider it a labor of love because the arancini are worth it!

Ingredients Needed

  • Arborio rice – you could also use carnaroli or Vialone Nano.  Don’t use short-grain rice, like basmati.  Your arancini won’t hold together.
  • Chicken stock – you can also use vegetable or beef stock as well.  
  • Parmesan cheese – buy the highest quality that you can find or afford and grate it yourself.
  • White wine – if you don’t like cooking with wine, use more broth or stock.
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Eggs – egg yolk will help hold the rice together and more eggs will be used to coat the arancini before frying.
  • Ground beef – I used a 90/10 blend.
  • Tomato sauce – use your favorite marinara sauce. 
  • Frozen peas
  • Onions and garlic – for flavor
  • Seasoned Italian bread crumbs – don’t use Panko.
  • Oil for frying – I like using a blend of peanut oil and vegetable oil.

Wooden serving board with golden, deep-fried balls of Arancini di Riso and one ball showing the inside with ground beef and peas..

Steps To Make This Recipe

There are a lot of steps and it DOES take some time, but none of the steps are difficult.

  1.  Make the risotto by stirring together the arborio rice and hot stock.  Bake in the oven until the stock is absorbed.  Stir in the cheese, wine, butter, salt, pepper, and egg yolk.  Cool until room temperature and then chill for at least 2 hours.  This step is crucial.  If your risotto isn’t cold when you make your balls, the arancini will fall apart when you fry it.
  2. Make the filling by sauteing the ground beef, onions, and garlic together. Stir in the tomato sauce and seasonings.  Let the filling cool.
  3. Make the arancini by making a patty of risotto.  Place a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the patty and wrap the risotto around the filling.
  4. Roll the arancini in beaten egg and then Italian bread crumbs.
  5. Fry in hot oil until golden brown.
  6. Serve hot with a side of marinara sauce.

Tips For Making Perfect Arancini

  • Don’t rinse your arborio rice.  Rinsing rice washes away some of the starch on the grains.  For the risotto, you want the starch so the risotto is creamy and for arancini, will stick together.
  • Don’t skip chilling your risotto!  This step is crucial for making arancini that stick together and fries without falling apart.  Chill the risotto for at least 2 hours, but overnight is better.  If you are short on time, spread the warm risotto on a cookie sheet before putting it into the refrigerator.  
  • Use an ice cream scoop to quickly portion out the risotto.  Also, you can spray your hands with cooking spray when you form the risotto to keep it from sticking.
  • If you have trouble forming the patty of risotto around the filling, you can also make a ball of risotto and then make a well in the center of it with your thumb.  Add your filling and then a bit more risotto on top.  Roll it around your hands to seal the top and form a perfectly round ball.
  • To keep your arancini piping hot while you fry the others in batches, preheat your oven to 300 degrees and place the fried arancini on a wire rack over a baking sheet in the oven.  They’ll stay hot until you’re ready to serve!
  • Freeze your fried arancini by allowing them to cool completely and storing them in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months.  Reheat them by placing them on a baking sheet in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes or until hot throughout.

Wooden serving board with golden, deep-fried balls of Arancini di Riso.

More Italian Recipes To Try:

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Wooden serving board with golden, deep-fried balls of Arancini di Riso.

Arancini di Riso

  • Author: Millie Brinkley
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 12 balls 1x


Arancini di Riso is the Sicilian street food of golden, fried balls of creamy, cheesy risotto filled with a zesty ragu of beef and peas. They’re addictive and possibly the ultimate comfort food.  Serve them with a side of your favorite marinara sauce.



For the rice:

  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 6 cups hot chicken stock, divided
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pats
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk

For the filling:

  • ½ pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
  • ½ cup Italian tomato sauce
  • ½ cup small frozen peas, thawed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper

For the coating:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying (I used a blend of peanut and vegetable oils)


Make the risotto.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large Dutch oven, place the rice and 5 cups of chicken stock and stir well.  Cover and bake for 1 hour or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente.

Remove from the oven and quickly stir in the remaining hot chicken stock, cheese, wine, butter, salt, pepper, and egg yolk.

Stir vigorously until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is very thick and looks creamy.

Let the mixture come to room temperature and then cover the pot and refrigerate until the rice is very cold – at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Make the filling.

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef.  Use a spoon to break up the meat into tiny bits.

Add the onion and garlic.  Stir into the beef and continue cooking until the onions are translucent and the beef is no longer pink.

Carefully drain any fat from the meat.  Stir in the tomato sauce, peas, salt, and pepper.  Set aside to cool until it can be easily handled.

To make the arancini:

Use ¼ – ⅓ cup of cold risotto to make a patty.

Place one heaping tablespoon of the meat filling into the center of the patty.

Bring the edges of the rice patty up around the filling forming a ball.  Set aside on a wire rack.  Repeat with the remaining rice and filling.

To cook the arancini:

Fill a large Dutch oven or deep fat fryer with oil until about half full.  Preheat the oil until it reaches 375 degrees on a deep-fat thermometer.

Place the eggs in a shallow bowl and whisk well with a tablespoon of water.

Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl.

Dip each rice ball into the egg mixture and then roll in the bread crumbs.

Fry the rice balls, a few at a time, for 1-2 minutes on each side until deep golden brown and crisp.

Use a wire spider or slotted spoon to remove the balls from the oil and drain them on paper towels.

Serve warm with tomato sauce.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Chilling time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Fry
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Arancini di Riso, Risotto balls, Rice balls, National Rice Ball Day, arborio rice, Italian street food, Italian recipes

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