Double Cheese Arancini (Sicilian Rice Balls)

Arancini di riso is a traditional Sicilian street food. A white risotto base flavoured with Parmesan or Pecorino is prepared, cooled until firm, rolled into balls then stuffed with a cube of mozzarella, coated in breadcrumbs and fried until golden. Served crisp and warm with tomato dipping sauce and you’ll be transported to the streets of the Italian island of Sicily. 

Originally posted in January 2014, recipe and photographs updated July 2020.

I first made these arancini for my blog in 2014, back then I was dreaming of my impending holiday to Tuscany that summer and I was cooking lots of Italian food in my kitchen counting down the days until my trip. This is a recipe I’ve been meaning to update and improve for a long time. Recently I made arancini again for dinner because I’ve been off on annual leave from work and as I’ve had lots of spare time to bake different recipes, I thought I’d share the updated recipe and photos for you to enjoy one more time!

These are perfect to make if you have some leftover risotto bianco (white risotto) on hand from a previous lunch or dinner. Arancini are a popular starter on many restaurant menus and they really transform leftover risotto. Traditionally deep-fried, you can also bake these rice balls until golden if you’re not a fan of fried food. I don’t particularly enjoy fried food, but I will say I highly recommend frying these stuffed rice balls opposed to baking them for authenticity.

I’m not going to lie, making arancini is a lengthy process and this recipe is one that requires time to focus on. Even before eating the arancini, the day before you’ll need to prepare the delicious risotto base.

So you’re probably wondering why we’re starting by making your risotto bianco (white risotto) a day ahead? We’re doing this to make sure the risotto is dried out and easy to shape and roll into the arancini the next day and won’t stick to your hands. Also, chilling your risotto allows the flavours to develop too – an added bonus! Just try not to eat too much of it beforehand though, this will probably make you laugh but I even had to chase my taste testers out from the kitchen once the risotto was cooling otherwise I knew we’d have nothing left for the arancini!

In the photo above you’ll see my risotto base before stirring all that glorious, melty and salty cheese in. These are in fact DOUBLE cheese arancini, because we have grated cheese mixed into the risotto AND a piece of mozzarella stuffed into the centre of each rice ball.

This recipe is definitely 100% one to try if you’re a cheese lover that’s for sure!

The above photo shows my batch of arancini ready for frying. This recipe makes a generous helping of these tasty Sicilian rice balls making 18 in total, so more than enough to serve 6. We had our serving and shared a couple extra the next day and even a day later they weren’t as crisp on the outside but when heated still had that amazing gooey mozzarella surprise!

I wanted to show you the process in step-by-step photos of how to shape and form the arancini, but working alone in the kitchen I was unable to take photos whilst having my hands covered in the ingredients – I didn’t really fancy covering my camera with food if I could avoid it!

I’ll just describe to you the method: it’s as simple as taking approx. a 60g portion of the risotto, flattening that in your hand slightly, then taking a piece of mozzarella and incasing the cheese fully inside of the risotto mix. Then roll your rice ball in seasoned flour, followed by beaten egg and finally cover the outside completely in breadcrumbs.

Just look at that amazing gooey centre, the mozzarella goes all stringy and is ultra creamy!

Eat your arancini with tomato sauce (I recommend arrabbiata or a tomato and basil sauce). You could even garnish your plate with a side salad too if you like. It’s so easy to prepare a restaurant-style starter in your own kitchen, so get your ingredients ready and make yourself these tasty arancini as soon as possible!

Ingredients:

Risotto Bianco (White Risotto):

15g / 1 tablespoon (salted or unsalted) butter

1 tablespoon oil – use either a light olive or vegetable oil

1 brown or white onion, finely diced

2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

300g arborio rice

150ml white wine – I recommend Pinot Grigio

900ml vegetable stock

50g Parmesan or vegetarian hard cheese alternative (such as Pecorino)

Salt and black pepper, to taste

125g dried/pizza mozzarella, cut into 18 x 1 cm cubes – you can also use an 125g ball of buffalo mozzarella 

100g plain flour

2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

200g breadcrumbs

Method:

  1. To make the risotto bianco: In a large frying pan heat the butter and oil until foamy. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes until transparent and softened. Add the rice and cook for a further 2 minutes to toast slightly. Now turn the heat up to a medium and add the wine – it will bubble rapidly, stir together and cook until all the wine has been absorbed. Now add a ladleful of stock at a time, stirring well until all the stock has been absorbed by the rice and repeat with the remaining stock – this should take approx. 25-30 minutes (test your rice to see if it’s soft without any harder uncooked grains of rice left – you want it cooked al dente.) Now remove the risotto from the heat and mix through the grated Parmesan or vegetarian hard cheese, season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  2. Spread the risotto mix out over a large baking tray and leave to cool completely. Once cooled, cover and leave it in the fridge overnight.
  3. To fill and shape the arancini: Take roughly 60g portions and divide the risotto mix into 18. Dampen your hands with a bit of water, flatten each piece of rice and place a cube of mozzarella in the centre. Shape into a ball by bringing the sides up and sealing at the top, then roll the mix slightly between your palms. You’ll want to keep dampening your hands and repeat this step with the remaining risotto mixture.
  4. To coat the arancini: Set up a section in your kitchen with your ingredients for coating the arancini. Take the flour and season with salt and black pepper. Place the beaten eggs in a small bowl and tip the breadcrumbs into another bowl.
  5. Take each arancini you prepare earlier and start by rolling in the seasoned flour, then roll in the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Spread the arancini out onto a large baking tray that’s been lined with parchment paper or a piece of clingfilm to stop them from sticking to the tray.
  6. Half fill a large deep saucepan with vegetable oil and heat over medium-low until it reads 170°C on a cooking thermometer or until a piece of bread turns golden brown in the oil within 45 seconds. Fry the arancini in batches until crisp and golden – this should take roughly 4-5 minutes. Once ready, drain the arancini on kitchen paper and leave to cool slightly before serving.
  7. Serve the arancini warm (allow them to cool for a few minutes after frying) with a sprinkle of extra grated Parmesan/vegetarian alternative and some chopped parsley – if you don’t fancy this you can just sprinkle the arancini with sea salt. Place the arancini on a serving platter or individual dishes with a pot of tomato sauce – we love arrabbiata sauce with ours.

Recipe from here

Enjoy!

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Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber Dip)

My take on Greek tzaztiki dip – it’s fantastic served with pitta or crusty bread and all kinds of dishes like gyros, souvlaki or part of a mezze. To make the best tzatziki you need to use thick and creamy Greek yoghurt and add lots of garlic!

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I’m finally sharing one of my favourite Greek recipes with you! I’ve been eating and making this dip for many years now and I decided this recipe deserved a place on the blog. If you were wondering, Tzatziki is a Greek cucumber and yoghurt dip and it’s traditionally served with grilled meats like beef, chicken or pork in Greece and Cyprus. I personally love it drizzled over fried halloumi cheese. Try it sometime, it’s delicious! 🙂

When we visited the beautiful Mediterranean island of Cyprus last summer we enjoyed some of the best tzatziki we’d ever had before. Most days lunch at our villa consisted of platefuls of Greek salad and Lebanese pitta bread to dip into bowls of tzatziki and hummus. Ever since tasting the tzatziki in Cyprus I knew when I got home I needed to recreate my own recipe so I could continue reminiscing about my holiday and the tasty Cypriot food.

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I recently shared this roasted garlic hummus and sharing this family favourite tzatziki recipe was next on my list. It’s simply delicious and full of many light and beautiful flavours like tangy Greek yoghurt, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and dill. If you like Greek food or have had tzatziki at a Greek restaurant before, then I know you’ll enjoy this recipe a lot!

To make the tzatziki you will start by preparing the cucumber. I used a whole large cucumber for this recipe. You can choose whether you’d like to peel or leave the skin on the cucumber and whether you prefer it grated or finely diced. Next cut the cucumber lengthways and using a spoon scoop the watery centre out. You need to make sure you squeeze as much water out of the cucumber as you can as any excess water will alter the consistency of the tzatziki.

Also, I strongly recommend using full-fat Greek yoghurt. Don’t substitute with Greek-style or natural yoghurt because they won’t live up to quality of the proper Greek stuff! I always believe it’s better to spend a little extra on something like this once in a while rather than substituting with something that’s not quite up to the mark.

Tzatziki gets better with age so you will find after a day or so in the fridge it will taste even better than the day you made it. I don’t know about you but recipes that can be made in advance tick all the boxes for me!

Ingredients:

1 large cucumber

500g (2 cups) full-fat Greek yoghurt

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped dill (can be substituted with mint)

1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (approx. half a lemon) or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Slice the cucumber lengthways and using a small spoon scoop out the watery centre and discard the seeds. Coarsely grate the cucumber or dice it. Place the cucumber in a sieve over a bowl and squeeze as much of the water out as you can. I always leave the peel on because it contains lots of flavour and texture, but this is just my personal preference.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the cucumber, yoghurt, garlic, dill, lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning. The dip can be served straight away but it is best left to chill in the fridge for at least 2-4 hours in order for the flavours to develop and marry together.
  3. When ready to serve, place the tzatziki in a serving bowl or dish. It will keep fresh covered or stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Give the tzatziki a good mix prior to serving.

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There are so many different ways of serving this tzaztiki, my favourite is with pitta bread and a drizzle of olive oil. Simple but seriously tasty. 

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Love Greek food? Try my Greek Orzo Salad next!

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Enjoy!

jess

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Roasted Garlic Hummus

Basic hummus recipe with roasted garlic, lemon and spices. A healthy and inexpensive crowd-pleasing dip! 

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I really love hummus. I think I have lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to make it myself and the hummus never seems to be smooth. I found a simple trick for getting ultra smooth hummus. All you have to do is squeeze the skins off the canned chickpeas (garbanzo). It’s a vital step in making the seriously smooth hummus. The only downfall is it does take quite a bit of time but it’s worth going the extra mile to make the best hummus.

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The second thing I changed about my hummus is I’ve used roasted garlic. It’s an underrated ingredient in savoury cooking and can transform any dish into something quite special. If you’d like to learn how to roast your own garlic I find this post helpful for tips. I’m not really a fan of the taste of raw garlic in hummus as I find it way too strong and overpowers other flavours whereas roasted garlic adds the right amount of flavour.

Tahini is also a super important ingredient to add to hummus. It’s a sesame seed paste commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking and recipes. I highly recommend it for authentic flavour and texture.

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I make this hummus all the time and I always find it great to have a bowl aside in my fridge ready for snacking on. The hummus is great and it can be served with vegetable crudités, spread in tortilla wraps with chicken and salad or served as part of a mezze. My favourite way to eat it is with toasted pitta or crunchy pitta chips alongside tzaztiki (Greek cucumber dip).

After tasting this hummus my taste buds were transported back to Cyprus and the summer. It’s my favourite hummus recipe and is super easy and quick to prepare and hardly costs anything to make – which means this recipe is particularly great for those on a budget and for busy students like myself. 🙂

Ingredients:

240g chickpeas (this is usually 400g/14 ounce can before draining)

1 lemon, juiced (approx. 2 tablespoons of juice)

2-4 cloves roasted garlic, adjust to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

100ml tahini (sesame seed paste)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt, to taste

Method:

1. Drain the chickpeas. Squeeze the chickpeas to release the skins – discard the skins.

2. Tip the chickpeas, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, tahini, oil along with a generous pinch of salt into a food processor. Process until smooth, add 4 tablespoons of water to loosen the hummus.

3. Adjust seasoning. Spread out into serving bowl or dish. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: The hummus will keep for up to 1 week. But it is best eaten fresh. I leave my hummus in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight before serving as this allows the flavours to develop. Before serving drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds, freshly chopped parsley and spices like smoked paprika or zaatar.

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I was making this hummus again and decided on adding some Moroccan inspired spices. Just up the cumin to a full teaspoon and add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric. Delicious!

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Enjoy!

jess

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Spicy Thai Crab Cakes with Lemon and Lime Aiöli

Spicy and sweet Thai-style crab cakes. Crisp and delicious on the outside with a flavourful and aromatic filling. Great served with homemade lemon and lime aiöli to cool down the heat!

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These spicy crab cakes make a great appetiser, lunch or light bite for dinner. The perfect plate consists of a refreshing Asian-inspired salad and a drizzle of Sriracha to compliment the cakes! 

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These crab cakes are packed full of flavour! With fresh ginger and chilli, garlic, chopped coriander and parsley, lemon zest and garlic all incased in each beautiful patty. Delicious, spicy and a great mix of taste – they’re definitely restaurant worthy and will wow anyone who tastes them!

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(Makes 6)

Ingredients:

2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced

2 red chillies, deseeded and finely minced

1 clove of garlic, minced

250g can of white crab meat, drained well – you can swap crab for salmon or tuna, if preferred

1 tbsp chopped coriander

1 tbsp chopped parsley

2 spring onions, roughly chopped

8 tbsp of breadcrumbs

Plain flour

2 large free-range eggs

Vegetable or olive oil oil

Lemon Lime Aiöli –

4-5 tbsp mayonnaise

Zest from 1/2 lime + a squeeze of the juice

Zest 1/2 lemon plus a squeeze of the juice

1 clove of garlic, minced

Method: 

1. To make the crab cakes: In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine the ginger, chilli, crab meat, coriander, parsley and chopped spring onions. Crack in one of the eggs and add 4 tbsp of the breadcrumbs. Mix to combine.

2. Divide the mixture into 6 equally sized portions. Now mould into patties. Place on a lined tray and pop into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

3. One chilled and firm, remove the crab cakes from the fridge. Beat the remaining egg with one tablespoon of water in a separate bowl. Dust each patty with a little of the plain flour, then dip and coat in the beaten egg. Finish by tossing in the breadcrumbs to coat and shaking off the excess breadcrumbs.

4. Preheat oven to 220°C / 200 degrees Fan / 425°F / Gas Mark 7. Heat approx. 2 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan. Once the oil is hot enough, fry the crab cakes 2-3 minutes each side. Then transfer to a large baking dish and finish cooking in the oven for 10 minutes or until piping hot in the centre.

5. To make the aiöli: Combine the mayonnaise with the zest, lime and lemon juice and minced garlic until combined. Serve the crab cakes hot with salad and the aiöli dipping sauce and some extra sweet chilli or a drizzle of Sriracha. I also love to garnish with lime or lemon wedges and a scattering of extra chopped herbs.

crab cakes plate

So here’s my recipe. These are crispy, spicy and really delicious. We enjoyed these for dinner served with steamed rice and stir-fried veggies, but they are also great served with a simple watercress salad with chopped tomatoes, sliced radishes, cucumber ribbons and a drizzle of olive oil. I hope you do give these a go, they’re exceptionally tasty and really easy to make! #MyVegasRecipe

Enjoy!

jess