The epitome of southern Italian street food, these small risotto balls are stuffed with mozzarella and peas, dredged in breadcrumbs, and deep fried. The resulting arancini — named for the “little oranges” that they resemble — explode with each crunchy, cheese-filled bite.
We can thank the ancient Sicilians for this perfect snack; the southern island is known for combining simple ingredients into tasty recipes. Calling only for rice and a few seasonings, arancini are inexpensive, easy to make, and ready to eat on the go.
Today, this classic southern street food is found across Italy in food carts, counters, and even the finest restaurants. The tasty recipe can be customized with different fillings, from savoury ragù to sweet gianduja. Next time you whip up a batch of risotto, save a serving for arancini!
Arancini (Fried Risotto Balls)
Recipe courtesy of Eataly
Yield: 20 arancini
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
4 ounces yellow onion, finely diced
10 cups lightly salted water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Zest of 1 lemon
¾ cup freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 ounces mozzarella, cut into 20 ½-inch dice
1 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs, passed through a sieve
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
Salt, to taste
To make the risotto:
Bring a large pot with the 10 cups of water to a boil, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place a saucepan over medium heat, and add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Add the diced onions to the pan and cook until they become tender. When the onions are translucent, add the rice and toast the grains, making sure to coat them with the oil and mixing for 5 minutes. Using a large ladle, add 1 cup of hot water until the rice is just covered, stirring continuously until the water is just above the surface of the rice, keeping the liquid at a consistent boil. Repeat this process until you have added all the water and the risotto is cooked through.
When the risotto is al dente, stir in the cubed butter, lemon zest, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Season with salt, to taste.
Remove the pan from the heat and spread the risotto on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper to allow it to cool.
To make the arancini:
Once the risotto has cooled, roll portions of it in your hands to form balls of about 4 ounces, and stuff each one with a piece of mozzarella and a pea, sealing any holes.
Place the flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs in separate bowls. Coat one risotto ball first with the flour, then with the egg, and finally with the breadcrumbs, then place it back on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat this process until all the risotto balls have been coated thoroughly.
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil until it is almost smoking. Cook the arancini in the oil until they become golden brown all over. Remove each rice ball to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Serve warm, topped with a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.