Welcome to the world of rice arancini—a delicious, comforting, and versatile street food delight! In this post, I’ll dive into the history of these scrumptious rice balls and share a traditional recipe with two mouthwatering fillings. Prepare to embark on a culinary adventure and discover the secrets to making perfect arancini. Let’s get started!
10 to 12
About this Recipe
By: Silvana Lanzetta
I can totally relate to the widespread love for rice arancini! They’re hands-down one of the best street foods out there. I remember back in my broke university days, grabbing an arancino for lunch was the perfect treat. You’re not alone in your adoration for these scrumptious little bites!
In Naples, they’re known as “pall’ e ris,” which means rice balls. The Neapolitan version is smaller, with more tomato sauce, but still equally delightful. However, today, I’m sharing with you the traditional Sicilian recipe, which, in my opinion, takes the cake.
Here’s a little trick I use: whenever I make ragù alla Siciliana, I whip up some extra, just for arancini. Storing the ragù in the fridge for a couple of days lets the flavours meld and intensify, making it even more mouthwatering. Plus, it makes preparing arancini later on so much easier!
Orange grove in Sicily
Teste di Moro (Moorish Heads), a typical Sicilian pottery reminding of the Arabic Influence
Arancini, the undeniable star of Italian street food, likely originated in Sicily between the 9th and 11th centuries. You know, the name “arancino” comes from its uncanny resemblance to an orange, a fruit that Sicily is well-known for.
Its ancestor is actually the timballo, a dish invented by the Arabs.
Picture this: during lavish banquets, the Arabs (who ruled Sicily back then) would serve a tray of saffron-flavoured rice topped with meat and vegetables. Everyone would dig in with their hands!
The crispy breading we love today was a later innovation, credited to the cooks of Frederick II of Swabia‘s court. They needed a way for their king to enjoy rice arancini on his hunting trips, so they came up with the genius idea of wrapping them in a breadcrumb coating. This not only made them portable but also helped preserve the rice and filling.
Now, there are quite a few theories about the arancini’s true origins. Some say they were created in convents, others in baronial houses, and some even believe they were born from popular cuisine traditions, transforming leftovers into something imaginative and delicious. But in the end, arancini are a beautiful blend of Sicily’s diverse historical influences: the Arab touch in the rice and saffron, the French flair in the ragù, the Greek influence in the cheese, and the American (via Spain) twist with tomatoes: they then became the main ingredient in the classic ragù filling we know today.
Rice Arancini is a delicious and indulgent dish. This recipe is a calorie-dense, flavourful dish that contains a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, with the majority of the calories coming from rice. The recipe can be adjusted for a healthier option by incorporating whole-grain flour, lean meats, and alternative cooking methods, such as baking or air-frying.
- Proteins 27% 27%
- Carbs 57% 57%
- Fats 25% 25%
When it comes to making arancini, choosing the right rice is key. You’ll want a super starchy variety to ensure your rice balls are sticky and easy to shape. Trust me on this: Carnaroli rice is your best bet. Its high starch content makes it perfect for this recipe. But don’t worry too much if you can’t find it—Arborio rice will work fine too!
The beauty of rice arancini fillings is that it’s so wonderfully diverse! In my recipe, I’m sharing two delicious options: a simple cheese and ham filling called “al burro” and the traditional Palermitan version featuring a mouthwatering dollop of Sicilian ragù. Sometimes cheese is added to the ragù filling, but the oldest version only mixes cheese with the rice to make it extra sticky.
But hey, feel free to get creative with your arancini fillings! Go vegetarian with a combo of mushrooms and cheese (porcini and taleggio are divine), or try spinach and mozzarella, or even burrata and mortadella. The sky’s the limit when it comes to these delectable delights!