Arancini are balls of rice that are stuffed or combined with a filling, coated with breadcrumbs and deep fried.They are typically formed like the size of a small orange, hence the name “arancini”.They originated in Sicily but are enjoyed throughout Italy. In this recipe ,which has been passed down in my family through three generations, the rice balls are stuffed with meat, peas, sauce and mozzarella. If you prefer you can also just stuff them with the mozzarella. They make a wonderful lunch or first course for dinner. You can make them smaller and they’ll make a great appetizer.
What makes these so great for entertaining is that you can make them ahead of time and refrigerate them until you are ready to fry them.My aunt said that they can also be baked. You would put them in an oil coated pan and drizzle some oil on top of each rice ball. They would then be baked at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. I have always just fried them but that is another option if you wanted to try it.
Although rice balls are a little time -consuming I have tried to give some shortcuts. Please don’t let it keep you from trying these, I promise you they are well worth it.
Choosing the best rice for these is important , you want a sticky rice, not a long grain rice. If you can find a short or medium grain rice it will hold together much better. Store brands work well if you can find the short grain. In my area I have had success with Goya medium grain rice. In Italy arancini is most often made with arborio rice or left-over risotto.
Olde Family Recipe Arancini/Rice balls
( I get 10-12 rice balls)
4 cups uncooked rice, I use Goya medium grain rice.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 large egg beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced parsley
In a heavy saucepan place the rice, olive oil, salt and water. Bring to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and allow to cook until all water is absorbed, about twenty minutes. Leave rice in covered pan but remove from stove. Allow rice to steam for 10-15 minutes in pan before transferring cooked rice to a large bowl to cool completely.Meanwhile make the filling.
1 pound ground beef
1 small can tomato paste
1 medium onion, chopped ( I prefer a sweet onion like Vidalia)
1 small package or 1/2 large bag of frozen peas, thawed
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound mozzarella cheese cut into cubes
In a large skillet heat the 1/4 cup olive oil and add the chopped onion and peas. Cook stirring often unto onions are soft and peas are cooked.Add the minced garlic and continue to cook for a minute until garlic is softened. Add in the tomato paste and stir while cooking to loosen it up, add the tomato paste can full of water and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until you have a smooth sauce.Pour into a bowl and set aside.
In the same pan crumble the ground beef and cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain the meat to get rid of excess grease and return to pan . Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the peas and tomato sauce mixture . Stir in 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and set aside to cool.
In the meantime mix the cooled rice with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup minced parsley and 1 beaten egg. At this point you can make the rice balls and fill them or you can use a shortcut like I’ve been using. I now mix the bowl of rice mixture with the cooled meat mixture. It is much quicker than filling each one. I form the rice balls with moistened hands with about a cup of the mixture, poking a cube of mozzarella into the center of each one. Place rolled rice balls on wax paper lined cookie sheet and set aside while you assemble the coating ingredients.
For Coating the Rice Balls
2 large eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons of water
4 cups of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
Once upon of time I would roll the balls first in flour, then in egg and finally in breadcrumbs. I eliminated the flour step and I haven’t noticed a difference. Take each rice ball and roll it in the beaten egg and then in the breadcrumbs. Set aside until all are breaded. At this point you can refrigerate in a covered container until you are ready to cook them. Or you can deep fry immediately until golden brown, drain on paper towels and keep warm until ready to serve. I like them just like this or you can serve them with a side of marinara sauce. This recipe makes 10-12 good sized rice balls but you can get more if you make them smaller. This recipe may also be doubled or cut in half. Enjoy!