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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Lemon Herb Rice

This one-pot rice pilaf is bursting with Mediterranean flavours! Baked and then garnished with herbs and lemon just before serving – you’ll want to eat this tasty rice straight from the pot!

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I love that in food there are memories. Tasting a certain food can transport you back and allow you to reminisce about somewhere you travelled to or a time you really enjoyed and have fond memories of.

That’s exactly what this recipe does for me.

I first had a taste of rice very similar to this a number of years ago on holiday on one of my first visits to the glorious Mediterranean island of Cyprus. My family and I would visit this one restaurant a couple of times during our trip, the restaurant specialised in souvlaki, which consists of various meats and vegetables grilled on a barbecue. Each diner received a massive plate that included a jacket potato, souvlaki meat of your choice such as beef, chicken or pork, a corn on the cob and a small portion of rice. The rice wasn’t just boring plain boiled rice, it was incredibly buttery and rich in sensational flavours.

Greek is one of the many cuisines I really enjoy. A few of my personal Greek food favourites include spanakopita, tzatziki and tiropitakia – we used to buy these from bakeries on the way to the beach and would sit eating these amazing cheesy pastries whilst feeling the gentle sea breeze and sun on us. Just thinking of that I’d desperately like to be transported back there right now!

Wave goodbye to the winter blues by making this rice, it’s sure to bring a touch of sunshine to your day!

We recently enjoyed this rice again served with Greek salad (minus the feta cheese) and some vegetarian sausages. The rice makes a super tasty dinner everyone will love!

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

30g / 2 tablespoons butter

Drizzle of olive oil

1 white onion, diced

2-3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

1-2 dried or fresh bay leaves, torn – tearing the leaves releases the flavour

450g (2 cups) long grain rice

900ml (4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock

Zest from half a large lemon and a squeeze of the juice

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Few sprigs each of fresh thyme and rosemary, finely chopped

Small handful of fresh parsley (approx. 2-3 tablespoons), finely chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C / 180°C Fan / 400°F / Gas Mark 6. In a large ovenproof saucepan over a medium heat melt one tablespoon of the butter and the oil.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves and a touch of salt and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes until soft and translucent – you don’t want this to colour too much.
  3. Now add the rice and stir until all the grains of rice are moistened by the butter. Then add the stock, cover the saucepan with a lid and allow it to come up to the boil.
  4. Once boiling take off the heat and place in the oven to braise for 15-20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is completely cooked through.
  5. Add the chopped herbs, lemon zest and a generous squeeze of the lemon juice and season with extra salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Leave the rice with the lid on and allow the flavours to develop for about 5-10 minutes prior to serving. Garnish the rice with extra chopped parsley if desired.
  7. Rice is best served straight away or at room temperature. Don’t reheat rice more than once. If you’re reheating it check temperature has reached at least 75°C before consuming.

Recipe Notes:

  • If your saucepan lid is not ovenproof then you can cook this rice in a dish covered with tin/aluminium foil.
  • If you’re planning to make this rice dairy-free you can substitute the butter for a dairy-free alternative or just use oil.
  • I’ve tested this recipe out a few times and I’ve found adding the zest from half a large lemon adds more than enough lemon flavour without being overpowering. If you want you can add the zest of the whole lemon if you’re a lemon lover!
  • This rice doesn’t have to the braised in the oven you can cook it by boiling it the stove top instead if you’d prefer to do that. I baked it as this is how I was taught how to cook the best rice at culinary school. Just check how long your rice needs to cook, each brand can cook differently. There’s nothing nice about overcooked rice and you won’t want this rice to be the texture of rice pudding!
  • Rice can be eaten on its own but it’s also great served with chicken or fish such as salmon or prawns/shrimp.
  • This recipe will typically serve 4-6 people generously but it can serve up to 8 smaller portions.

Enjoy!

jess

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Spanish Paella

Classic Spanish paella made with calasparra rice, smoky chorizo, tender chicken and prawns. Garnished with lemon wedges and chopped parsley. An easy dinner recipe that’ll take you less than an hour to prepare and the whole family will love! 

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I already mentioned how much I love Spanish food when I shared this patatas bravas recipe. I have many favourite cuisines and Spanish is definitely up there at the top. I have lots of dishes inspired by travels to Spain that I would love to share with you. But today, here is my favourite paella recipe.

Paella is my favourite dish to serve whenever I have family or friends coming over for dinner because it’s easy to make and serves a lot of people. It makes a brilliant hearty main meal during the winter and also a gorgeous al fresco dinner during the summer months partnered with a glass of wine.

The process of making paella is much more simple than you would think. When the paella is finished cooking there is a layer of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan, this is known as socarrat in Spain and is a delicacy. So don’t worry if you think the rice has stuck to your pan, it’s a sign of a good paella!

This recipe is packed with flavour and once you have your prep done it’ll only take you just a little over 30 minutes to have this paella on your table ready to devour.

I’ve made many paellas but this recipe is our favourite so far. My sister, who is my biggest food critic, declared this the best paella I’ve made to date. So I definitely knew this recipe was blog-worthy!

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 white onion, finely diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 free-range skinless and boneless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks

Salt and black pepper, to taste

2 generous pinches of smoked paprika

225g chorizo, cut into 1/2cm rounds (use less, if you prefer)

300g calasparra rice (or arborio)

550ml chicken or vegetable stock

Small pinch of saffron threads (optional)

Small knob of butter

100-150g king prawns (approx. 3-4 per person)

150g fresh or frozen peas

To serve – 

Lemon wedges

Chopped parsley

Method:

  1. Gently heat the oil in a large deep saucepan, frying pan or traditional 30cm paella pan. Sauté the diced onion and pepper for a few minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so until fragrant.
  2. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper and add a couple of pinches of paprika. Cook until it’s starting to brown on the outside. Now add the chorizo continue to cook for another a few minutes until it’s starting to get crispy. Add a generous pinch of saffron to the hot stock. Finally, add the rice to the pan along with the stock and the butter. Leave to simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Don’t stir.
  3. Now cover the pan with a lid and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes or until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is tender, but slightly al dente. If you rice isn’t fully cooked, add more stock and continue to simmer until it’s at your preferred texture.
  4. When the paella is near enough ready, in a separate pan gently cook the prawns and peas until the prawns have turned pink in colour and the peas are fully defrosted. Once cooked, add the prawns and peas to the paella pan and stir to combine. Continue to cook the paella until it’s piping hot through.
  5. Serve immediately and garnish with lemon wedges and chopped parsley if you desire.

Recipe Notes:

  • As noted beside the ingredients list, you can add less chorizo and add more prawns. You could also add any other seafood like clams or mussels.

Enjoy!

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Saffron Rice

Fluffy aromatic buttered saffron rice. A classic and delicious side dish.

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I absolutely adore simple and easy dishes. They’re especially convenient for busy working families with hardly any time to make a delicious and tasty dinner. Rice dishes in particular are a great standby for hectic weeknight dinners. Rice is a basic store cupboard ingredient and my recipe proves it can be transformed into something special with just a handful of extra ingredients!

This rice is amazing and it’s always a big hit with my family. It’s quick to make and with a buttery and fragrant flavour it makes a tasty side dish that is luxurious and will impress any dinner guest who tastes it. I decided to combine one of my favourite ingredients in my herb and spice cupboard, saffron. I often use saffron in my Spanish recipes like paella (recipe for that will be coming soon!) and homemade sauces. This rice recipe is very adaptable as you can add a small handful of cardamom pods, cloves, a little pinch of turmeric and a cinnamon stick and easily turn the recipe into pilau rice ready to serve with your favourite curry.

I’ve been making and creating my own rice recipes for a little while now. I shared this amazingly good One-Pot Mexican Rice recipe a while back when I’d just started blogging and it still remains one of my favourite dishes.

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The rice is speckled with beautiful saffron threads. I love the rich flavour the saffron adds. To prepare the rice it’s very important to have your mis en place prepared beforehand. I take two smallish pinches of saffron threads and I soak the saffron in boiling water for 10 minutes. The soaking allows the oils to be released and the flavour will become stronger. Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice but it can be found at an affordable price if you look around at your local supermarket.

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Whilst the saffron is soaking you have the opportunity to prepare your other ingredients. I finely diced a small white onion and minced up a couple cloves of garlic. To cook the rice, melt the butter and oil in a large saucepan. Caramelise the onion and then add the garlic and a bay leaf – caramelising the onion again will add more depth of flavour and a little sweetness. Tip the rice into the pan and toast slightly so it can be coated fully in the butter mixture. Then all that’s left to do is to pour in the stock and leave the rice to simmer away until cooked.

Once cooked I always take rice off the heat and leave it to rest for another 5-10 minutes. This allows the rice to steam a little longer and makes it fluffier – it’s one of the most vital steps in making perfect homemade rice! Fluff with a fork and then serve up!

This rice can also be served alongside many dishes – I love to serve it with curry or my mum’s Spanish roast chicken. But the rice is great enjoyed on it’s own too! I hope you give this a go and most all enjoy it!

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(Serves 4-6 generous portions) 

Ingredients – 

2 pinches saffron threads

2 tbsp boiling water

30g (2 tbsp.) butter

1 tbsp oil – vegetable or canola oil

1 small white onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf, torn 

2 cups rice (you can use basmati or long grain rice)

3 1/2 – 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and cracked black pepper, to taste 

Fresh parsley, to serve (opt)


Method – 

1. Add the saffron threads to a small bowl. Pour over the 2 tablespoons boiling water, mix and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

2. In a large saucepan gently melt the butter and oil. Add the chopped onion, season well with salt and pepper and sauté on a medium heat for 3 minutes. Now add the minced garlic and bay leaf and continue cooking for a further minute until fragrant.

3. Add the rice and toast for 2 minutes. Now add the stock and the saffron infusion you pre-made earlier and stir to combine. Bring up to the boil and then once boiling turn down the heat to low and allow the rice to simmer covered for 15 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked fully.

4. Once the rice is cooked, take off the heat and leave on the side for 5-10 minutes. Fluff the rice up and adjust seasoning, if needed.

5. Serve warm with a sprinkling of parsley.

 

Note: To make this dish Vegan omit the butter and add an extra 1 tbsp oil or 30g of your preferred butter subsitute. 

 

Enjoy the recipe everyone!

jess

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