Arancini Italian Rice Balls are so utterly delicious and irresistible! This arancini recipe is made with Italian arborio rice which is a short-grain rice with a high starch content. The centres are filled with both diced prosciutto and mozzarella. They’re then rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried to a golden brown perfection!
What are Arancini
Arancini, or more specifically arancini di riso are round and plump orange hued, deep fried rice balls. The exterior is light and crispy with creamy soft centres, much like a good risotto. They’re an extremely popular street food throughout Italy and a true comfort food!
The word arancini simply means “little oranges” because really that’s what they resemble after they’re finished frying.
In the Lazio region where I was born, they are known as “Suppli al Telefono.” Named for the melting and oozing strands of mozzarella which are said to look like telephone lines strung from pole to pole.
They’re pure bliss and loved by everyone!
Seriously though, just one bite and you’ll know what I mean!
How to Make Arancini Italian Rice Balls
You’re probably asking yourself, are they hard to make? And no they’re not! You’ll find them easier to make than they look. However, they do require a few easy steps and a little patience to assemble. But, so worth the effort in my opinion.
You can absolutely make them with leftover rice if ever you have some from a previous meal.
However, at my house that simply never happens and so I always start with a fresh batch of cooked rice.
STEP 1: Cooking Rice from scratch
- Sauté the chopped onions in some olive oil with the sliced garlic and bay leaves. For about 3 minutes or just until the onions are translucent.
- Stir in the rice.
- Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquids.
- Allow the rice to cool before continuing with the next step.
STEP 2: Mix in cheese and eggs
- Once the rice has cooled, discard the bay leaves.
- Stir in the grated cheese with the beaten egg and egg yolk.
STEP 3: Assemble arancini balls
- Use an ice-cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure to divide the rice mixture into 12 equal portions. Transfer to a baking sheet.
- With moistened hands, form one portion at a time into a ball. Cup the rice ball in the palm of one hand and make an indentation in the middle.
- Fill the centre with approximately 1 teaspoon of the prosciutto and mozzarella mixture.
- Close your hand, making a fist and gently roll back into a ball.
- Roll the balls one at a time, first in the flour then in the egg whites and finely in the bread crumbs. Turn to coat all over.
- Place them back on the cookie sheet and chill for 30 minutes.
STEP 4: Deep frying
- Fill a dutch oven or a stock pot with vegetable oil measuring 2 inches deep. (I used a dutch oven of a 3L capacity)
- Heat the oil to 350 degrees F. (use a deep frying thermometer for accuracy)
- Use a large slotted spoon or wire skimmer to gently lower the balls into the hot oil. (don’t over crowd them)
- Fry the balls for about 2 minutes or till golden brown and crispy all over.
- Use a wire skimmer or slotted spoon to gently remove them from the hot oil and place them on cookie sheet lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
They can be served either hot or cold but I much prefer them hot. Especially when they’re stuffed with mozzarella. This way when you cut into one you’ll have ooey-gooey, cheesy strands of mozzarella happening. Delish!
Not only do they make yummy appetizers, entrées or snacks but they’re also equally wonderful served for lunch or supper with a crispy side salad.
My absolute favourite way to serve these Arancini, Italian Rice Balls is with a delicious Marinara Sauce. Or you can simply use your own favourite Tomato Sauce.
Variations for Rice Balls Recipe
- Another filling is a Sicilian-style type one with meat ragù and peas.
- Even a vegetable filled one is quit yummy.
- Or simply no filling at all, however I would not leave out the mozzarella!
- Use a short grain rice with a high starch content such as arborio rice which will stick together better.
- You can use leftover rice or simply make a fresh batch up to one day ahead.
- Shape, stuff and roll the balls in flour, beaten egg whites and bread crumbs up to one day ahead.
- You can prep and deep fry them one day in advance before serving.
- When made in advance, reheat in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 12 minutes till crispy on the outside.
- They can also be reheated in the microwave however they’ll lose their outside crispness but still be yummy.
They’re always a great crowd pleasing treat. And simply wonderful to take along on your next potluck or family gathering!
They have the most creamy soft centres with melted strands of mozzarella and a crunchy outer layer. Your family will be clamouring for more!
This post was first published April 20, 2015 and republished September 21, 2020 with updated photos and content.
Arancini, Italian Rice Balls
Ingredients to cook the rice from scratch
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 clove of garlic sliced thinly
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 2 ½ cups low sodium chicken stock
Ingredients to mix into the cooked rice
- 1/2 cup Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 large whole egg lightly beaten
- 1 large egg yolk lightly beaten
Filling for the rice balls
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese chopped
- 1/2 cup prosciutto chopped
Ingredients to roll the rice balls into
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large egg whites beaten with a fork
- 2 cups Italian bread crumbs
- vegetable oil for deep frying
Cooking the rice from scratch
- In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the chopped onion, garlic, bay leaf and sauté for about 3 minutes or just until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Stir in the rice.
- Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil then lower to a simmer.
- Cook the rice until tender and all the liquid has absorbed, for about 20 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf and discard it.
- Once the rice is cooked, transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
- When cooled stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, beaten egg and egg yolk.
Shaping and filling the balls
- Divide the mixture in 12 equal portions and place the portions on a small tray. Having these portions ready will make it easier to fill the rice balls.
- Keep a small bowl filled with water close by and from time to time moisten your hands for easy rolling of the rice balls. This step will greatly minimize any fuss and mess when rolling the balls. Trust me and you can thank me later!
- Combine the prosciutto and mozzarella together in a small bowl.
- With moistened hands, scoop up 1/4 cup of the rice mixture and cup it in one hand. Use your other hand to flatten it slightly while making an indentation. Place about a teaspoon of the mozzarella and prosciutto mixture in the middle. Close your hand, making a fist and gently roll into a ball. If needed, you can always add more rice.
- Place the rice ball on a greased cookie sheet and repeat with the remaining rice and filling to form 12 rice balls.
- Moisten your hands with water as often as needed for easy rolling. This will prevent the rice from sticking too much on your hands and you will be able to roll the rice balls effortlessly.
Rolling the balls in flour, beaten egg whites and bread crumbs
- Roll the rice balls, one at a time, first in the flour then in the egg whites and finely in the bread crumbs while turning to coat all over and place them back on a cookie sheet.
- Cover with plastic wrap and then chill for 30 minutes.
Getting ready to deep fry
- In the meantime, line a cookie sheet with paper towels and place it next to your stove.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a dutch oven or a deep frying pan (the oil should measure about 2 inches deep), to 350*F. Use a deep frying thermometer for accuracy. Make sure there is enough oil in the pan to ensure they cook evenly and to avoid any from bursting.
- Use a wire skimmer or a large slotted spoon to gently lower the rice balls into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd them.
- Fry the rice balls for about 2 minutes or until golden brown and crispy all over. You can also keep them warm in the oven preheated to 200*F while you fry up the rest.
- When ready, remove with the wire skimmer or your slotted spoon and place them on the prepared cookie sheet to drain.
- Repeat with the remaining rice balls.
- Serve while hot alongside a crispy salad or wth your favourite tomato sauce.