Arancini (pronounced “aran-chini”) are a Sicilian street food made of risotto that’s rolled into a ball, stuffed, breaded, and gently fried. You’re going to love the crispy outside and creamy inside of these Italian snacks!

Photo Credits: Andrea Gralow

Arancini are a popular Italian street food made of bite-sized breaded and lightly fried spheres of risotto. 

When you bite into an arancino (the singular name for these golden beauties), you’re met with layers of flavor and texture. First comes the crispy outer layer, followed by a creamy risotto, and finally a center of melted cheese that stretches on for what seems like miles.

Arancini take some effort to prepare but they are truly a delight to eat. This arancini recipe is perfect for snacking or serving as an appetizer with a simple Marinara Sauce. Or, they could easily make a whole meal when paired with a Lemon Parmesan Lettuce Salad or your favorite protein.

Table of Contents
  1. History of Arancini 
  2. What is Arancini?
  3. Ingredients in this Arancini Recipe
  4. How to Make Arancini
  5. Tips and Tricks for Making Arancini 
  6. How to Bake or Air Fry Arancini
  7. What to Serve with Arancini
  8. Tips for Storing, Freezing and Reheating Arancini 
  9. More Italian Recipes to Love
  10. Arancini (Italian Fried Risotto) Recipe

History of Arancini 

Arancini is believed to have originated while Sicily was under Arab rule, beginning in the 9th century. During this time, Middle Eastern foods including rice, citrus fruits, and spices were introduced to the locals. Arancini was fried, most likely to preserve transport. 

You’ll find Arancini at every rosticceria (fast food shop) in Sicily. Eaten by hand, they are an accessible and beloved everyday food.

They are also a feast day staple, especially in and around the port town of Syracuse during the celebration of St. Lucia. Many locals abstain from pasta and bread to honor the Patron Saint of Sight and Wheat, and observe the miraculous end of a historic famine.

I learned to make arancini during my childhood by watching my Zia (Italian for aunt), a Sicilian immigrant. She brought her recipe straight from the island known for its rich history, culture, and volcanic presence that influences its unique cuisine. She always added tomato paste, not just for flavor but also to achieve the signature orange-like appearance.

close up of an arancini ball opened up on a pile of other arancini balls.

What is Arancini?

Arancini are essentially breaded and fried balls of risotto with a stuffed center; in this case mozzarella cheese. The cooled risotto is rolled into balls, stuffed with the filling, and dredged in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, before frying until crispy and golden. 

Ragù is a traditional filling for arancini, but stuffing them with cheese only or a mix of cheese and peas is not uncommon. They are even quite delicious when you don’t stuff them at all! 

ingredients for arancini Italian fried risotto including parmesan cheese, butter, onion, garlic, parsley, olive oil, pepper, arborio rice, mozzarella, salt, chicken stock, tomato paste, flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs.

Ingredients in this Arancini Recipe

This arancini recipe requires only a few key ingredients to make up its three distinct layers.

  • Risotto: Arborio rice is a short-grain rice with a high starch content. It’s ideal for achieving a creamy and chewy risotto consistency. The rice is sauteed with onions and garlic then seasoned with salt, pepper, tomato paste, parsley, butter, and Chicken Broth (homemade or store bought). Grated parmesan acts as a glue that helps the arancini hold its shape while adding sharp, nutty notes.
  • Filling: This recipe calls for mozzarella cheese cut into small cubes. Fresh mozzarella can also be used, just pat it dry before stuffing.
  • Coating: A straightforward dredge of all-purpose flour, whisked eggs, and plain panko breadcrumbs coats each arancino. 
  • Oil: I use a high quality olive oil like our Nocellara Italian EVOO for the risotto and vegetable oil for frying. 

How to Make Arancini

Arancini is quite simple to make although it does take some patience to get through all of the steps. I promise you this arancini recipe is worth it!

  • Prepare the risotto: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 crushed, peeled garlic cloves and 1 finely chopped yellow onion. Stir until softened, about 5 minutes. chopped onions being sauteed in a pot.
  • Toast the rice: Add 1 ½ cups Arborio rice and toast  until semi-translucent and fragrant. 
  • Add the flavor: Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, 3 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves, 3 cups chicken broth, and 2 teaspoons tomato paste. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and bring to a soft boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20-25 minutes. When the rice is tender and the broth is fully absorbed, turn off the heat and mix in ½ cup of grated parmesan.arborio rice starting to cook in a pot in broth with salt, pepper, parsley tomato paste and butter.
  • Spread: Carefully spread the rice onto a parchment-lined baking tray and let cool for 10 minutes. cooked arborio rice spread on a parchment lined sheet pan to cool.
  • Roll: When the rice is cool enough to handle, roll it into about 20 1-inch balls.
  • Stuff: Cut the 4 ounces of mozzarella into 20, ½-inch cubes. Stuff them into the center of each rice ball, closing them by gently pushing rice over the opening and reshaping the balls. a cube of mozzarella cheese stuffed into an unbreaded arancini italian risotto ball on a plate.close up of an unbreaded arancini italian risotto ball on a plate.
  • Dredge: In one medium mixing bowl, stir together ½ cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper. In a second bowl, whisk 2 eggs. Add 2 cups of breadcrumbs to a third bowl. Dredge each ball in flour, then egg, then panko, and place on a clean parchment-lined baking sheet. ingredients for a breading station including a bowl of whisked eggs, a bowl of flour and a bowl of panko breadcrumbs.breaded arancini italian fried risotto balls on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Fry: Heat 2 cups grapeseed or vegetable oil in an 8-inch saucepan to 350° F, or until the oil is bubbling but is not smoking. Fry 6 balls at a time, gently moving them around until golden in color, about 3-4 minutes. Place fried arancini on a paper towel-lined plate. arancini italian fried risotto balls frying in a pot of oil
  • Serve: Let cool for 5 minutes before serving with toothpicks or napkins on the side. 3 arancini italian fried risotto balls on a plate with toothpick in each one in front of a bowl of marinara and another plate of arancini.

Tips and Tricks for Making Arancini 

Perfect arancini mostly comes down to getting the risotto to the right consistency. If you can get that part right—which isn’t difficult to do—you’ll be on the road to success. Plus, once you learn how to make this arancini recipe you can adapt it and get creative with the fillings in your own kitchen.

  • After you cover the pot to let the risotto simmer, let it do its thing and don’t be tempted to uncover it until you get close to the 20 minute mark. Otherwise you risk letting the steam escape, which could result in adding more liquid and extending the cooking time.
  • Wet your hands before forming the rice balls. This will help prevent the rice from sticking to your hands. 
  • Wash your hands before beginning the dredging process. It helps to use one hand for the flour and the other for the egg and panko, so that you’ll only have one “sticky” hand.
  • Using tongs to place each ball into and remove them from the oil is the safest route, while using large spoons to move them around while cooking is the easiest.
  • Make sure the oil is hot enough to prevent it from absorbing into the rice layer. If you don’t have a thermometer, visual cues are helpful. The oil should have small bubbles but should not be smoking.

How to Bake or Air Fry Arancini

Frying the risotto balls is the traditional way to make Arancini and that's the approach I took for this arancini recipe. For those looking to use less oil or make less of a mess, baking them in an oven or air fryer is another great option.

To make Arancini in the Oven: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the breaded risotto balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 1 inch of space between each. Drizzle evenly with olive oil. Bake, turning periodically, until golden brown, 20-25 minutes.

How to Make Arancini in the Air Fryer: Preheat the air fryer to 375°F. Place the breaded risotto balls into the air fryer in a single layer, leaving 1-inch of space between each. Drizzle evenly with olive oil. Bake, turning periodically, or until golden brown, 12-15 minutes.

arancini italian fried risotto balls on a plate next to a bowl of marinara.

What to Serve with Arancini

Arancini are meant to be enjoyed as a finger food, on their own or with Homemade Marinara on the side to bring out the herby flavors. 

They also go great with a variety of appetizers, from roasted vegetables to bite-sized meatballs. Serve them at your next party or pack them up for an outing.

To make them into a heartier meal, pair arancini with a salad like Lemon Parmesan Lettuce Salad or Panzanella Salad. Or, with your favorite protein, like Italian-Style Skillet Chicken Breast.

Tips for Storing, Freezing and Reheating Arancini 

It’s hard to imagine you’ll have any leftover Arancini but if you do here’s how to store and freeze arancini.

While arancini are best enjoyed freshly fried, you can make them ahead by letting the fully cooked arancini cool, placing them in an air-tight container and refrigerating them for up to 3 days. Reheat in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes or in an air fryer for 20 minutes. 

To freeze arancini: Fully cook the arancini, then cool completely. Place in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen solid layer the arancini rice balls between pieces of parchment in an airtight container. They should keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

To reheat from frozen: Do not thaw before reheating. Just place them on a baking sheet in a 350°F for 20 to 30 minutes.

arancini italian fried risotto balls on a plate with a bowl of marinara with another bowl of marinara and plate of arancini in the background.

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Arancini (Italian Fried Risotto)

A picture of Candace Nagy.Candace Nagy
two arancini italian fried risotto balls opened up on a pile of other arancini balls on a plate with a bowl of marinara.
Arancini are a traditional Sicilian street food that get their name from their golden hue: Arancini means  little oranges. Risotto is formed into balls, encrusted in breadcrumbs, stuffed with a filling, and fried until crispy.
Prep – 30 minutes
Cook – 1 hour
Total – 1 hour 30 minutes
Cuisine:
Italian
Serves – 6
Course:
Appetizer

Ingredients
  

For the Risotto:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • 3 cups chicken stock (store-bought or homemade)
  • 2 teaspoons double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

For the Stuffing:

  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese

For the Coating:

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups plain panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups grapeseed or vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions
 

  • Saute the onion and garlic: Into a large, heavy bottom saucepan add the olive oil. Set over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  • Cook the rice: Add the rice to the saucepan and stir until semi-translucent, about 1 minute. Add the salt, ground pepper, parsley, stock, tomato paste, and butter. Mix well and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid. Let simmer until the rice is tender and the broth is absorbed, 20-25 minutes.
  • Set up a breading station: While the rice is cooking, grab 3 medium bowls. In one bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and pepper. In the second, whisk the eggs. Add the breadcrumbs to the third bowl. Line two shallow baking sheets with parchment paper
  • Cube the mozzarella: Cut the mozzarella into 18 to 20, ½ inch cubes and keep chilled and sealed in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Finish the rice: When the rice is tender and the broth is fully absorbed, turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan. Carefully spread the rice onto one of the prepared baking sheets and let cool for 10 minutes.
  • Stuff the rice: When the rice is cool enough to handle, form it into 18, 1-inch balls. You can do this using your hands or a small cookie scoop. Once the balls are formed, insert a cube of cheese into the center and press the rice around it so the cheese is completely encased.
  • Bread the Arancini: Carefully dredge each ball in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Repeat until all the balls are completed and place each completed ball on the other parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Fry: In an 8-inch saucepan, heat 2 cups (approximately ½-inch deep) of olive oil to 350°F, or until the oil forms small bubbles but is not smoking. Fry 6 balls at a time turning gently until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Place completed arancini on a paper towel-lined plate.
  • Serve: Let cool for 5 minutes before serving stuck with toothpicks or with napkins on the side.

Video

Notes

  • Wet your hands before forming the rice balls. This will help prevent the rice from sticking to your hands.
  • Wash your hands before beginning the dredging process. It helps to use one hand for the flour and the other for the egg and Panko, so you’ll only have one “sticky” hand.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams and spices. 

Nutrition

Calories: 576.9kcalCarbohydrates: 79gProtein: 20.5gFat: 19.4gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 7.5gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 86.8mgSodium: 1378.4mgPotassium: 335.7mgFiber: 3.8gSugar: 3.7gVitamin A: 595.6IUVitamin C: 4.8mgCalcium: 262.5mgIron: 5.2mg
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Candace Nagy is a passionate food writer who gets excited about sharing new ways of looking at the foods we eat, from food origins and heritage to systems and science, and everything in between. A Los Angeles native, she explores food through the lens of culture, class and creativity, often taking cues from the foods she grew up eating and those she has discovered during her travels. Her writing can be found at EatingWell, The Spruce Eats, Clean Plates, and elsewhere in the vast internet universe.
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Comments

  1. Hi! Would you be able to add how much a serving actually is in your recipes for those of us that are meal prepping? Thanks so much and I love all of the food that I've made from you!

    1. Hi, Jameelia. Our recipes can be divided by the number of servings listed to get the "serving size". The nutrition info here is our best effort and we use a program that calculates that for us based on the ingredient list. Unfortunately, the exact serving size measurement (by cups, etc) is another layer that's harder for us to precisely calculate at the moment. We appreciate the feedback, though, and hope to improve this in the future!

    1. Hi, Kim! I'm Summer and I work here at The Mediterranean Dish. Yes, you can make them in the air fryer! The article preceding the recipe gives you instructions on how to do that in the section called How to Bake or Air Fry Arancini. Enjoy! I love this recipe!