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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Arancini, the most popular and delicious Sicilian snack

Arancini is a dish that you will find on all the streets of Sicily. It is made from risotto, which is shaped into balls, filled with cheese and then fried. Once you taste their crispy exterior and oh-so-creamy interior, you will fall in love with them.

Arancini is not a difficult dish to make, even though it requires several steps that may seem complicated. Still, it’s worth the effort because it’s delicious. They are served as an aperitif or snack with marinara sauce, with green salad and lemon or parmesan or without anything on the side.

Most often, arancini are filled with ragout, but you will find them quite often with one or more types of cheese or even with peas. There are also variants that do not have any kind of filling.

Arancini were brought to Sicily by the Arabs when they ruled this island from the 9th century. During this time, foods from the Middle East were introduced, including rice, citrus fruits, and spices.

Risotto is the most important ingredient for arancini. It must be prepared from arborio rice which has a short grain and a high starch content. It is ideal for achieving a creamy risotto consistency.

The rice is sauteed with onion and garlic and then seasoned with salt, pepper, tomato paste, parsley, butter and chicken soup. Grated parmesan binds the whole composition, but also gives an extra flavor.

Ingredients for the arancini

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 300 g arborio rice
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • Finely chopped parsley
  • 750 ml chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons of concentrated tomato paste
  • 60 g unsalted butter
  • 100 g grated parmesan.

For the filling

  • 120 g mozzarella cheese

For the bread

  • 60 g flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 120 g plain panko breadcrumbs
  • 500 ml vegetable oil for frying

For the filling, mozzarella is the perfect choice. If you use fresh mozzarella, you must drain it well first. A simple variant of beaten eggs and panko breadcrumbs is used for breading.


Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Leave until soft, stirring, about 5 minutes.

Arancini, the most popular and delicious Sicilian snack
Image: Shutterstock

How to prepare rice for arancini

Add the rice to the saucepan and stir until translucent, about one minute. Add salt, ground pepper, parsley, soup, tomato paste and butter. Mix well and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid. Simmer until the rice is tender and the soup is absorbed, for about 20-25 minutes.

How to prepare the ingredients for the bread

While the rice is cooking, take 3 medium bowls. In the first bowl, mix the flour, salt and pepper. In the second, beat the eggs. Add the breadcrumbs to the third bowl. Line two shallow baking trays with baking paper.

Cut the mozzarella into 18-20 cubes. Keep cold until ready to use.

How to shape the arancini

When the rice is tender, turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan. Carefully spread the rice onto one of the prepared baking trays and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

When the rice is cool enough to handle, shape into 18 balls about 2 cm in diameter. Once the balls are formed, insert a cube of cheese in the center and press the rice around it so that the cheese is completely covered.

Carefully roll each ball in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Repeat the process with all the balls. Place on the prepared baking tray.

Heat up the oil in a saucepan. Lower 6 balls at a time into the oil, turning them gently until they brown, about 3-4 minutes. Place cooked arancini on a plate lined with a paper towel. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Tricks for the best arancini

The most important step to making perfect arancini is to prepare the risotto to the right consistency. When it starts boiling, resist the temptation to stir for the first 20 minutes. Otherwise, you risk letting the steam escape, which could result in more liquid forming and a longer cooking time.

When shaping the rice balls, wet your hands. This will help prevent the rice from sticking to your hands. When frying arancini, make sure the oil is very hot to prevent absorption into the rice layer. The oil should boil with small bubbles.

Serving arancini

The traditional way to serve arancini is with marinara sauce or plain. They also go great with a variety of appetizers, from roasted vegetables to meatballs. To turn them into a heartier meal, pair them with lemon parmesan green salad, panzanella salad, or Italian-style chicken breast.

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