Arancini or in simpler words, the Italian Rice balls are a common street food in Sicily. Although a very popular street food this makes up to be a wonderful appetizer or a small plate. During my recent trip to one of the restaurant chains, I had ordered couple of small plate samplings and one of the dishes in that was the Arancini. Crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside texture makes the dish very unique.
Arancini are prepared throughout the island is a very common site in a local Sicilian deli or from a roadside vendor. They are shaped, packed and stuffed differently in different parts of the region. I also learned that based on the way they are shaped they are defined and called either in a feminine name or a masculine name. In the western regions, they have a spherical shape and are called the “arancine” (female form). In the Eastern regions they are shaped in a conical form and are called “arancini” (the male form). So, based on the way shaped these, I should be calling them “Arancine”. The name arancini is derived from the Italian word Arancia which is the orange.
Risotto works great to make the arancini, but I used the regular rice to make them. This was the only difference that I found from the restaurant one. Mine was a little softer in the middle when compared to the ones made with the risotto that made it chewy in the center. I also made this egg less using flour as my batter and it worked very well. I used some fresh mozzarella to stuff inside the arancini.
If you have any left over rice, use it as they work great in the recipe. Just for the fun of it, I also added a couple of vegetables with the rice.
Preparation time – 20 mins
Cooking time – 1 hr
Difficulty level – easy
Ingredients to make Arancini – makes around 20 small ones
To make the rice balls –
- Cooked rice or risotto – 2 cups
- Bread crumbs – ¼ cup
- All purpose flour – 2 tbsp
- Corn flour – 1 tbsp
- Onion – 1 small (finely chopped)
- Bell pepper – 1 (finely chopped)
- Crushed pepper flakes – 1 tsp
- Salt – to taste
- Pepper – to taste
- Oil – 1 tbsp plus more to deep fry the rice balls
- Mozzarella – about 20- ½ inch pieces to stuff inside the balls
For the breading –
- Bread crumbs – about 1 cup
- All purpose flour – 3 tbsp
- Corn flour – 2 tbsp
- Salt and pepper – to taste
Procedure to make Arancini –
- Mash the cooked rice or risotto to a very soft mush and keep it aside. Using a potato masher or a flat heavy spoon works well to mash. Also if using leftover rice, warm it up a bit to help mash it easily.
- In a small pan, add 1 tbsp of oil and sauté the onion and bell peppers until soft. Also add the needed salt and crushed red peppers in it when cooking.
- Cool it down a bit and then add this vegetable mixture to the mashed rice. Add the corn flour, all purpose flour and bread crumbs and mix well.
- Take a handful of this mixture and make a ball with your palm. Stuff a piece of mozzarella inside the ball and close it well to form a tight ball. Do the same to the whole mixture and keep it aside.
- Now form a breading station. In a wide bowl, combine the all purpose flour, corn flour, salt and pepper and add about ¼ cup of water. Mix it well to form a thick batter. In another wide plate, add the bread crumbs and season it (if needed).
- Heat the oil in a wide frying pan to deep fry the rice balls.
- Dip each of the formed rice ball into the batter and coat it evenly.
- Now transfer this to the bread crumbs and roll it around to coat the surface. I would suggest using the left hand for the batter and the right hand for the bread crumbs, just to keep the wet and dry separately and not make it messy. Layer all the prepared ones in a tray and keep them ready to deep fry. At this stage you could also freeze them to fry later.
- Once the oil heats up slowly drop 2 or 3 balls into the oil and fry until evenly brown on all sides. The oil should be just the right temperature to allow cooking the balls to become crispy on the outside and melt the mozzarella slightly inside.
- Serve hot as is or with some marinara sauce on the side!