A traditional Italian holiday recipe from as far back as I can remember, Rice Balls, also known as Arancini, a delicious appetizer for any gathering.
Air Fryer Rice Balls or Arancini Recipe
I have updated this post to share a delicious recipe you can make any time of the year. Air fryer rice balls or arancini are delicious game day snacks as well as a traditional Italian recipe made during holidays.
During the winter holidays from Thanksgiving to Christmas I always remember we had rice balls or arancini for an appetizer. Today I have updated this tradition to enjoy these appetizers on a whim anytime of the year.
You can make this air fryer rice balls or arancini recipe a day in advance to save you time if you are preparing a buffet for any gathering.
What I really loved when I was quite young was the variety of rice balls that Nonna made. Some were made with lots of delicious cheese flavors. Others had chopped meat with peas and 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.
After so many years have passed, I tried several times 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.
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. I know this because I didn’t have a written recipe to follow. Using my intuition, I just mixed my ingredients using what I thought would be similar flavors.
I did use only 1 uncooked cup of arborio rice, cooked according to package directions for just plain rice – not risotto. This yielded about 8 medium rice balls. Just the right amount for a test recipe to serve as a side dish.
If you would like to make a more Italian style arancini just sauté 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.
Air Fryer Rice Balls or Arancini Recipe
Air Fryer Rice Balls or Arancini, a traditional Italian recipe often served during Holiday Seasons, Christmas, Easter, New Year celebrations, or any other time of the year. These are delicious on a buffet for any party or gathering.
- 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
- 1/2 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.
- When you are ready to prepare the rice balls, Heat oil either in deep fryer or if using a frying pan add oil about 1 inch high. Heat on medium to high.
- IF USING THE AIR FRYER: Pre-heat at 340 degrees.
- 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.
- STOVE TOP FRYING - Place into hot oil and cook on all sides until nicely browned. Takes about 3-5 minutes.
- Drain on paper towels.
- AIR FRYER - Place the rice balls into the basket. Cook at 340 degrees about 4-6 minutes. Check to see how brown they are, continue to cook another 4-6 minutes as needed.
This recipe makes about 8-10 rice balls. The yield will be determined by the how small or large you make the rice balls or arancini.
I still remember how delicious they were and we always looked forward to having them at the holidays.
Traditionally rice balls are served with homemade tomato sauce. You can use as a dip or drizzled over the rice balls for additional flavor. Here’s an easy recipe for a basic Marinara Sauce you can prepare in advance and have it ready whenever you need sauce.