If the idea of fried rice balls doesn’t get you excited, then you’ve clearly never tried arancini. These cheese-stuffed, fried risotto balls are the stuff of appetizer and snack legend. Arancini are bound to become your latest Italian food obsession!
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Arancino (the singular form) translates as “little orange.” But they contain no citrus; the name refers to their visual look, with an orb-like shape and a pleasing orange (OK, more like burnt sienna) tone.
There are many different ways to make arancini.
They are sometimes stuffed with meat, vegetables, cheese or some combination thereof. This quick and easy recipe keeps it simple, with a lightly seasoned risotto mixture and a simple mozzarella filling. These arancini come together in just about 20 minutes (including frying and cooling time!).
Quick and easy arancini recipe
Makes about 8 arancini
- 3 cups cooked risotto (see recipe note)
- 1 egg, divided
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning spice mix
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2-4 teaspoons cream (optional)
- 8 mini mozzarella balls (“Ciliegine” or “cherry tomato” size)
- 1 cup bread crumbs
Place the risotto in a large bowl that will give you space to mix.
Separate the egg yolk and white. Set the egg white aside in a medium-sized bowl. Place the egg yolk in the bowl with the risotto.
To the large bowl, add the Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning mix, and salt and pepper to taste.
Mix using clean hands or a wooden spoon, until the mixture comes together. It should be able to clump easily into a ball in your hand. If it seems a little dry, add cream a few teaspoons at a time until it feels sticky enough to clump but not so wet that it can’t easily be formed by hand.
Divide the risotto into 8 equal parts. Grab the first portion and form it into a ball. Then, make a well in the center.
Place a ball of mozzarella on top, and then mold the risotto around it, taking care not to leave any seams. Make it airtight. Repeat with the remaining portions.
Assemble a work space with the bowl of egg white and a plate of bread crumbs next to one another. One at a time, dip the rice balls in the egg white, coating evenly, and then in the bread crumbs, trying to ensure even and full coverage. Place on a baking sheet.
Pour about 1″ of oil into a heavy-bottomed skillet. Heat on medium-high, looking for a temperature of about 350 F. (Learn a bit more about frying here, if you are unfamiliar.)
Fry the balls in the hot oil a few at a time, turning as needed to ensure even golden browning. This can take up to 4 minutes, but don’t keep frying beyond the point where they are browned (i.e., don’t let them become blackened arancini).
Remove using tongs, let the excess oil drip off, and place on wire racks set atop paper towels to cool. Repeat with the remaining portions.
Serve your arancini as soon as they have cooled slightly (I like to serve mine with tomato sauce and grated cheese). If not serving them immediately, you can re-heat them in a 350 F oven for 5 minutes or so to warm them back up.
You can use any type of cooked risotto to make arancini. I often make arancini with whatever risotto leftovers I might have from dinner the night before. This means that, depending on how the risotto was flavored, the arancini will always be a new flavor experience!
Italian spice seasoning mix
Italian spice seasoning mix can be readily found in grocery stores. If you prefer, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite Italian herb (parsley, basil, and oregano all work well), finely minced.