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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