These Arancini are such a delicious Sicilian and Italian food. They’re crispy fried rice balls stuffed with a delicious meaty mixture, so good for an appetizer or dinner.
One of the first dishes I ate when we were in Italy was arancini (or arancine if you are in Palermo). I loved them right away, and was so thrilled when one of my new Italian friends agreed to teach me how to make them!
We are sharing a ragu arancini, which means our arancini are full of a delicious tomato and meat sauce.
I hope you enjoy this tradition Sicilian dish of arancini as much as we do! If I can make them, I promise that means you can too.
A fun time to make them would be during the 2nd week of September to celebrate the Arancino Festival, and enjoy eating arancini all day long. I know I plan to. You can also enjoy them during the Feast of Santa Lucia on December 13 (when bread and pasta are not eaten).
What is arancini?
Arancini are Italian rice balls, that are coated in bread crumbs and deep fried. They can be stuffed with a ragu (meaty tomato sauce), mozzarella or other cheese, ham and cheese, or vegetables. There are even sweet versions that are stuffed with chocolate or nutella and sprinkled with sugar.
Arancini is pronounce ah-rahn-chee-knee, and are a typical Sicilian dish. Arancini are considered little Sicilian suns, and are named after the orange “arancia” because of their shape and color.
Floriana is such a sweet heart, and thankfully speaks English so we became instant friends. I know I should practice speaking Italian, but I am at least learning to cook some Italian dishes 😉
What do you need to make Ragu Arancini?
- white grain rice (or arancini rice if you can find it)
- ground beef
- yellow onion
- green peas
- tomato sauce
- salt and pepper
- olive oil – for sauteeing the veggies
- vegetable oil – for deep frying the balls
How to make Arancini?
- First you’ll cook your rice in a large pot of water with a little salt. Then let the rice cool completely.
- Start by sautéing the onion and carrots in a little olive oil until they are nice and tender.
- Then add in the ground beef and cook it until it is cooked through.
- Add in the tomato sauce, some salt, pepper, and sugar. Simmer for a little bit until thickened. (We want it thickish because you need to be able to mold the rice around it.) Add in the green beans and cook those until warm. Then let the sauce cool.
- Whisk the eggs in a small bowl, measure out your breadcrumbs, and get everything ready to form the rice balls.
- Take about 1/4 cup of rice and spread it out into a flat layer on your hand, then scoop a couple Tablespoons of the ragu meat sauce into the middle of the rice.
- Fold the rice around the sauce, squishing it all together, and rolling it into a ball, about 2inches wide. Make sure the sauce isn’t peaking out anywhere.
- Dip each ball into the egg, covering it completely.
- Then dip them each into the breadcrumbs, covering again. Place them on a cookie sheet until you’re ready to fry them all.
- Heat up some vegetable oil in a large pot (you want to be able to fry at least 3 to 4 arancini balls at a time. Once the oil is hot (about 350 degrees F) add 3 of the balls to the oil. Let them cook for a couple minutes, flipping them over to cook all sides equally, until they are golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon.
- Place them on some paper towels to soak up the excess grease. Then enjoy hot!
Tips for making Arancini:
- If you feel like shaping a ball of rice around the meat sauce seems too tricky, another way is to make a ball of just rice. Then use your thumb to make a whole in it, fill it with your sauce. Then top it with more rice, and roll it back into a ball.
- These are a great make ahead dish! Keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days. You can reheat them in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes, and they should hold their shape, stay nice and crispy, and be so delicious!
- You can also freeze arancini. Let them cool completely to room temperature, then store them in a freezer safe bag for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy them again place them on a cookie sheet and heat them up at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-25 minutes, or until hot throughout.
What to serve with Arancini?
These delicious deep fried balls pair with pretty much any Italian dish, or can be eaten on their own.
- Fresh marinara sauce for dipping them into
- Grilled or Roasted Vegetables (asparagus, broccoli)
These arancini rice balls can be a process, but I promise they are worth the effort! Oh, one more thing, the most important word I have learned in Italian: Mangiamo – let’s eat!
For the Rice:
- 6 cups water
- 2 ½ cups short white grain rice (Italian rice or arancini rice if you can find it)
- 1 TBS salt
For the Ragu Meat Sauce:
- 2 TBS olive oil
- ½ cup diced yellow onion
- ½ cup diced carrot
- ½ lb ground beef
- 3 cups tomato sauce
- 1 TBS white sugar
- 1/2 TBS salt (to taste)
- 1 tsp pepper (to taste)
- 1 cup frozen green peas
For the Arancini Balls:
- 2 eggs
- 1 to 2 cups fine breadcrumbs
- 3 to 4 cups vegetable oil for frying
For the Rice:
- Bring 6 cups of water to boil in a large pot.
- Stir in rice and salt, lower the temperature slightly, cook until rice is tender and soaks up all or most of the water; about 20 minutes
- Drain the rice if needed, then spread it out on a cooking sheet to cool the rice quicker.
For the Ragu Meat Sauce:
- In a large sauce pan add the olive oil, saute the diced onions and carrots until golden and tender over medium high heat.
- Add in the ground beef, and cook it until browned.
- Add the tomato sauce, sugar, salt, and pepper.
- Simmer until thicken, about 20 to 30 minutes – the sauce needs to be thick enough to hold it's shape so you can form the rice around it.
- Add the green peas and let them simmer an additional 5 minutes until hot.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool.
For the Arancini Balls:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs until completely combined
- In another small bowl, add the fine breadcrumbs
- Wet your hands in some water to prevent rice from sticking
- Take about ¼ cup of rice and spread it into a flat patty on your hands.
- Scoop about 2 TBS of ragu – tomato sauce and ground beef – into the middle of the rice.
- Move the rice around the sauce, then form it into a ball, making sure the sauce isn't coming through. – they should be about 2 inches in diameter. Place them on a cookie sheet until you're ready for the next step.
- Dip a rice ball in the egg, swirling around to cover completely.
- Dip the rice ball in the breadcrumbs and cover completely with breadcrumbs, place on another cooking sheet.
- Repeat until all the stuffed rice balls are covered with breadcrumbs
- In a wide pot, add the vegetable oil – you want to be able to fry 3 to 4 rice balls at a time.
- Once the oil is 350 degrees Fahrehneit, place 3 to 4 rice balls into the oil
- Let them fry for a minute or two, rotating as they cook, to cook all sides, until they are golden brown.
- Remove the balls using a slotted spoon or spatula and lay on paper towel to soak the excess grease.
- Continue until all arancini are fried, and enjoy warm!
This arancini recipe was first posted on August 12, 2016. The photos and blog text were updated for clarity on September 3, 2021.