Arancini are essentially leftover risotto shaped into balls and fried. Leftover rice never tasted so good. Here’s how to make them.

Fried Risotto Balls

Arancini are the stuff of memories for any child who’s spent any time whatsoever in the kitchen with his or her nonna. Natch, each child will have a different recollection of what proper arancini ought to be since regional and familial and personal preferences about how to make arancini vary quite dramatically. Don’t be shy about varying the mix-ins for this recipe according to what you happen to have on hand. And by all means feel free to use cold leftover risotto in place of the freshly cooked rice. That sort of frugal thinking is exactly the sort of mindset that created arancini in the first place.  Originally published September 19, 2013. Renee Schettler Rossi

How Arancini Got Their Name

These orbs of fried leftover risotto are a familiar sight throughout Italy and are typically known as arancini, although in Rome they’re referred to as telefono, so named because the strings of melted mozzarella that ooze out when you take a bite resemble telephone lines.

Arancini (Risotto Balls Stuffed with Mozzarella)

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 10 M
  • Makes 10 large or 15 small
5/5 - 2 reviews
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Special Equipment: Deep-fry thermometer or candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer


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In a large saucepan, bring the water, onion, parsley, and salt to a boil. Add the rice and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the rice, plop it in a large shallow dish, and let it cool.

When the rice is cool, add the passata and gradually stir in the beaten egg, a little at a time, until you achieve the consistency of risotto, which is to say sorta liquidy but not too liquidy. You will probably need all of the egg.

Use your hands to form oblong-shaped risotto balls the size of a large egg. (If the rice mixture is sticky, you can wet your hands to keep the rice from clinging.) Use your index finger to make a hole in the center of each ball and then stuff a small cube of mozzarella into it. Close the hole and squeeze the ball tightly between your hands to seal it.

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

I prepared the arancini according to the recipe as I had no leftover risotto. I found these quite different than the arancini I’m used to making, which are from Naples where the rice is not tossed with pureed tomatoes and the center has meat and peas rather than cheese. These fried 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.


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  1. Thank you for posting this great recipe. I was finally able to make arancini, and I love how they turned out.

  2. 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!)

    1. 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?

  3. 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!

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