Rice Balls or Arancini
is a traditional Italian holiday recipe back in the day. Today this is a delicious appetizer that can be made any time of year.
During the winter holidays from Thanksgiving to Christmas I always remember we had rice balls or arancini for an appetizer.
What I really loved when I was quite young was the rice balls my Nonna made when she added chopped meat seasoned with cinnamon in the center of the rice ball.
My grandmother and mother would help Nonna prepare the arancini for the holidays and continued making them for many holidays to come.
I still remember how delicious they were and we always looked forward to having them at the holidays.
After so many years have passed, I tried several time to recreate Nonna’s recipe but I always had a problem keeping the rice together. It took me a long time to get the right recipe.
With a few hints from a friend I was finally able to get the recipe right and they were delicious. The tip that made the recipe a success was to use arborio rice cooked a day in advance. That did the trick for me.
Here is my recipe without the chopped meat (I forgot to buy the meat). This is a very flexible recipe since I didn’t have a written recipe to follow and I just mixed my ingredients using what I thought would be a similar flavor, just using my intuition.
If you would like to make a more Italian style arancini just saute a small amount of chopped onion and about 1 cup of chopped meat adding in a ‘pinch’ of cinnamon for a traditional twist. You can add a handful of baby peas also, then season with salt and pepper.
If you are not so adventurous you can leave out the cinnamon. When forming the rice ball use your thumb to make an impression in the rice ball and add a 1/4-1/2 teasponful of the chopped meat mixture and then continue to form the rice ball with the meat in the center of the rice ball.
- 1 cup uncooked arborio rice
- 2 or 3 TBLS. chopped parsley
- 1-3 TBLS. grated parmgiano reggiano cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg
- 1 egg white beaten
- 1 cup of seasoned bread crumbs
- ½ cup of panko bread crumbs
- Avocado oil for frying (or your favorite light flavorless oil for frying)
- Marinara Sauce for dipping
- Cook the rice according to directions. Drain rice and place in a bowl to chill at least 1 day in advance.
- Heat oil either in deep fryer or if using a frying pan add oil about 1 inch high. Heat on medium to high.
- Beat egg white and set aside in dish next to the bread crumb mixture.
- In the bowl with the chilled rice, add the cheese, parsley, 1 egg and salt and pepper. Mix well and begin forming the balls.
- Dip each rice ball into beaten egg white, then roll in the mixture of bread crumbs.
- Place into hot oil and cook on all sides until nicely browned. Takes about 3-5 minutes.
- Drain on paper towels.
Serve the rice balls with a side of tomato sauce. Here’s an easy recipe for a basic Marinara Sauce you can prepare in advance and have it ready whenever you need sauce.