Arancini | Fried Risotto Balls

Risotto Balls Stuffed with Mozzarella Recipe

These hot fried risotto balls [Editor’s Note: This orb of leftover risotto is oft referred to as telefono in Rome, although elsewhere such orbs tend to be referred to as arancini] are named after the telephone lines of Rome because the melting strings of mozzarella that ooze out when you bite into them resemble wires. Daniela is a great friend of ours who used to make these with her mother and grandmother from leftover risotto cooked the day before. If you have no leftover risotto, this recipe gives a quick way of making some.–Katie Caldesi

LC A Word About Arancini Note

Arancini, or telefono if you will, are the stuff of memories for many an Italian child who spent any time whatsoever in the kitchen with his or her nonna. Each child will have a different recollection of what proper arancini ought to be, however, given that regional and personal preferences vary dramatically. Don’t be shy about varying the mix-ins according to what you happen to have on hand as leftovers. Well, within reason.

Special Equipment: Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer

Risotto Balls Stuffed with Mozzarella Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 10 M
  • Makes 10 large or 15 small


  • 3 cups cold water
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • Large pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups risotto rice (Arborio or Carnaroli)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup passata (purée about 1 1/4 cups canned tomatoes and run them through a sieve or food mill and remove the seeds and skins)
  • 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 (4 1/2-ounce) fresh mozzarella ball (buffalo’s or cow’s milk), diced into small cubes
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • Sunflower or peanut oil for deep-frying


  • 1. Put the water in a large saucepan and add the onion, parsley, and salt. Bring to a boil, then add the rice and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the rice and put it into a large shallow dish to cool. Add the passata (it can be cold) and stir in the beaten egg, a little at a time. You will probably need all of it—you are looking to achieve the consistency of a risotto, though not too liquidy a mixture.
  • 2. Use your hands to form oblong-shaped risotto balls the size of a large egg. (If needed, you can wet your hands to keep the rice from sticking to them.) Make a hole in the center of each ball with your finger and stuff a small cube of mozzarella into it. Close the hole and squeeze the ball tightly between your hands to seal it.
  • 3. Dump the bread crumbs in a shallow bowl. Dip and gently roll the risotto balls in the bread crumbs to coat them on all sides. Heat 2 to 3 inches oil in a saucepan or deep-sided skillet to 350°F (176°C). Give the risotto balls one more squeeze before gently lowering them into the hot oil in small batches. Cook the fried risotto balls until golden brown, maybe 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the arancini to a wire rack or platter and serve immediately.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews
Testers Choice
Jo Ann Brown

Sep 19, 2013

I prepared these rice balls according to the recipe, as I had no leftover risotto. I found these quite different than the rice balls I’m used to which are made with recipes from Naples where the rice is not tossed with pureed tomatoes and the center has meat and peas rather than cheese. Daniela’s risotto balls represent a classic peasant food where every bit of leftovers from the day before is assembled to honor resources and provide a meal. The flavor is very mellow. Wet hands help keep the rice from sticking when forming the balls. I used a cast-iron skillet to fry them up, which took only about 4 to 5 minutes to become a deep beautiful golden brown, just like the ones sold in my neighborhood pork store.

  1. Martha in KS says:

    When I was in college a friend made these (without the tomatoes) twice to share & I can still taste them in my mind 40 years later. Her recipe came from a Time-Life Cookbook & was before we could easily get fresh mozzarella. I might have to make these. Thank you!

  2. I’ve been eating arancini since I can remember. My nonna made them, and now my mom makes them, and I’m sure I will, too. We make ours with peas and sometimes meat. I’ll have to show my mom’ this version. Thanks!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Our pleasure, Lisa! Thrilled to hear this brought to mind some lovely memories…and curious to hear what you think of this version of arancini!

  3. One of my favourite things ever – need to try this version!

  4. My Sicilian Nana made arancini, golden crispy on the outside, melty soft rice surrounding a center of meat and tomatoes inside…only on special occasions and holidays so they were a much coveted treat. However, she guarded the secret recipe like the Buckingham sentries guard the Queen so I don’t have the recipe. The challenge I have is that my Mom insisted that Nana never used a breading so I’m clueless as to how she got such a perfect golden crisp on the outside. Any hints on how she did this would be very much appreciated!
    (BTW I’m a vegan so if your hints are veganizable, that’s even better!)

    • Beth Price says:

      thepeachpatch, I have honestly never seen arancini without a breadcrumb coating. I wonder if any of our readers could help you recreate your Nana’s recipe? (which sounds amazing!) Anyone?

    • candy says:

      Perhaps a coating of cornstarch?

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