Rice Balls

Sicilian Arancini are deliciously plump stuffed rice balls filled with meat and peas, then deep fried. They make perfect party eats.

That leftover rice can be transformed into an exotic appetizer. These coated balls of rice are bursting with surprises inside. For more tasty appetizers try Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms, Instant Pot Meatballs, and Easy Antipasto Kebobs.

Italian rice balls on a platter with a side of marinara

“Arancini di Riso”

Arancini are Italian snacks consisting of a ball of rice coated with bread crumbs and then deep fried—a staple of Sicilian cuisine.

These rice balls are definitely a labor of love. There are a lot of steps, and they ended up taking a really long time to make. If I was going to make them again, I would probably make the rice and the filling the day before, and then assemble and fry them the next day. I think they would be fun to make as a family or a group of friends, since there are so many different tasks to do.

They ended up tasting fantastic, and my family absolutely loved them, so they were probably worth all the effort!

How to make rice balls in a pot on the stove

How to Make Rice Balls

RICE. To make the rice, melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the rice to the pot and cook 2-3 minutes, until just slightly toasted. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is cooked off.

THICKEN. Add the remaining chicken broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently and allowing the rice to thicken between additions. Cook 20-25 minutes, until the rice is tender and thick.

SEASON & CHILL. Remove from heat and stir in the salt, pepper, eggs, and parmesan. Move the rice to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until chilled completely, at least two hours.

To make the filling

BEEF. To make the filling, add the ground beef and ground pork to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, breaking into small pieces, until browned and cooked through. Drain the grease and return the meat to the skillet. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, garlic salt, basil, oregano, sugar, and water.

PEAS. Bring the filling to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the peas, then allow to cool slightly.

To Assemble

PREP. Add the bread crumbs to a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, beat together the eggs. Heat the vegetable oil to 360 degrees in a deep skillet or shallow pot.

ASSEMBLE. To assemble the rice balls, scoop two tablespoons of the rice mixture into the palm of your hand and flatten slightly to form a cup. Add a teaspoon of the filling mixture to the center of the cup, then fold the rice around the filling to form a ball.

COAT. Dip each ball in the egg mixture, then roll in the bread crumbs. Place the balls on a cookie sheet until they are all assembled.

FRY. When the oil has heated, place the rice balls, 3-4 at a time, into the hot oil. Cook 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown and crispy on all sides. Drain on paper towels.

SERVE. Serve warm, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, with marinara sauce for dipping.

Rice ball filling cooking in a pan

Variations

You could try adding any of these ingredients to the rice ball filling. Just make sure any meat or vegetables are chopped into small pieces to help it all stay together easily.

  • Mushrooms
  • Prosciutto 
  • Pistachios
  • Mozzarella
  • Ham
  • Spinach
  • Carrot
  • Celery 
  • Peas
  • Onion
  • Add 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • Cook the rice in broth
  • Squeeze some lemon juice on top

Ingredient Tips

Bread crumbs: You can either use panko bread crumbs or regular bread crumbs. The panko bread crumbs will give the best texture, but we also like the seasoned flavors of other bread crumbs.

How to season? Typically the flavor comes from parsley and the parmesan cheese. You can always add more Italian seasonings: dried or fresh.

Rice: You should arborio rice, it is actually the same rice that you use for risotto. This is a great option because it has more starch than normal rice and will give your rice balls a creamier texture.

Step by step pictures of filling and rolling rice balls

Tips for Frying and Forming

Frying

  • How do I know if the oil is hot enough? You can stick the end of a wooden spoon in the oil. If the oil starts bubbling vigorously around the spoon then it is hot enough.
  • Best method for frying? Fry until it is evenly golden-brown and then remove it with a slotted spoon and let it sit on a paper towel lined plate.
  • What to do with leftover oil? You need to let the oil cool completely and then pour it back into the container it came from. And then you can toss it from there. Don’t ever pour the oil down the sink!

Forming:

  • How to make sure it sticks together? You may have to add some extra water to the rice to make it stick together. If you dampen your hands before picking up your rice, it should stay in one piece. Another tip is to make the rice a day ahead of time and let it chill. This will help it stick together.

Frying rice balls in oil

Serving + Storing

SERVE your rice balls with marinara sauce for dipping. They are traditionally served as an appetizer or side, so you could pair them with your favorite Italian dish. Consider pairing them with:

Storage and Reheating: Keep them in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-5 days. You should reheat the balls in the oven instead of the microwave. By reheating them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, you will help maintain the crispness.

Freezing: You can freeze them pretty easily! Let them solidify on a sheet pan in the freezer for 40 minutes and then place them in an airtight container/freezer safe ziploc bag. When you’re ready to reheat them from the freezer, bake them in the oven at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Italian fried rice balls on a platter with marinara

For more rice dishes, try:

 

Rice Balls Recipe

Sicilian Arancini are deliciously plump stuffed rice balls filled with meat and peas, then deep fried. They make perfect party eats.
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Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr
Chill Time: 2 hrs
Total Time: 3 hrs 30 mins
Servings: 15
Calories: 480kcal
Print Recipe

Ingredients

for the rice:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
for the filling:
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
for frying:
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3 eggs
  • 2-3 cups vegetable or canola oil

Instructions

  • To make the rice, melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the rice to the pot and cook 2-3 minutes, until just slightly toasted. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is cooked off. Add the remaining chicken broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently and allowing the rice to thicken between additions. Cook 20-25 minutes, until the rice is tender and thick. Remove from heat and stir in the salt, pepper, eggs, and parmesan. Move the rice to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until chilled completely, at least two hours.
  • To make the filling, add the ground beef and ground pork to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, breaking into small pieces, until browned and cooked through. Drain the grease and return the meat to the skillet. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, garlic salt, basil, oregano, sugar, and water. Bring the filling to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the peas, then allow to cool slightly.
  • Add the bread crumbs to a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, beat together the eggs. Heat the vegetable oil to 360 degrees in a deep skillet or shallow pot.
  • To assemble the rice balls, scoop two tablespoons of the rice mixture into the palm of your hand and flatten slightly to form a cup. Add a teaspoon of the filling mixture to the center of the cup, then fold the rice around the filling to form a ball. Dip each ball in the egg mixture, then roll in the bread crumbs. Place the balls on a cookie sheet until they are all assembled.
  • When the oil has heated, place the rice balls, 3-4 at a time, into the hot oil. Cook 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown and crispy on all sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, with marinara sauce for dipping.

Nutrition

Calories: 480kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 29g | Cholesterol: 86mg | Sodium: 723mg | Potassium: 235mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 283IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 111mg | Iron: 2mg