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halved arancini filled with meat sauce and peas on white plate
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The Best Sicilian Arancini

This popular Sicilian street food is a family favourite. A crispy breaded coating, cheesy rice with a savoury meat sauce and peas filling, what's not to love!
Course antipasto, Snack
Cuisine Sicilian
Keyword arancini, rice balls, Sicilian arancini
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 32 arancini
Calories 249kcal

Ingredients

For the rice

  • 1 kg Arborio rice
  • 10 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups combination of grated parmigiano cheese and pecorino romano (or only parmesan if you prefer)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the sauce :

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups white button mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound (225 grams) ground veal/beef/pork
  • 1/4 cup wine, red or white
  • 2 cups tomato passata tomato purée
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup frozen peas

For assembling the arancini:

  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 litres vegetable oil, (or canola oil) for frying

Instructions

For the rice:

  • Bring the chicken stock to a boil and add the rice. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes, until the broth is absorbed. 
  • After the rice is cooked, pour into a large shallow dish or pan and allow to cool. Once cooled, stir in the grated cheese and the eggs. Mix well.

For the sauce:

  • In a large sauce pan, on medium heat sauté the onion, garlic and mushrooms in the olive oil. 
  • Add the ground meat and brown, stirring frequently. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute until it evaporates. 
  • Pour in tomato passata and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover loosely with the lid and simmer for 1 hour until the sauce has thickened.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  • In the last 10 minutes of cooking, stir in the peas. Set aside to cool.

To assemble the arancini:

  • In a deep, heavy bottomed dutch oven, large enough to contain 7-8 arancini, add 2 litres of vegetable oil. 
  • Prepare two bowls with the breadcrumbs in one and the beaten eggs in the other. Transfer the prepared sauce to a bowl. Now you are ready to assemble your arancini.
  • Using a 1/2 cup measuring cup, scoop the rice into your hand and shape into a ball. Make an indentation in the centre of the rice ball with your thumb and add a spoonful of meat sauce. Close the rice mixture around the meat and shape into a ball. 
  • Dredge in the egg wash and then roll in the breadcrumbs. It is recommended that you prepare all of your arancini and have them ready for frying.
  • In order to check if your oil is hot enough (if not using a deep fryer) place the handle of a wooden spoon in the pot and if the oil begins to bubble and fry around the handle, it is ready for your arancini. Fry 7 or 8 arancini at a time until they are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a dish lined with paper towels to absorb extra oil. Serve hot.

Notes

For the Spinach and mozzarella variation:
Following the same method for traditional arancini, stir in 150 grams defrosted frozen spinach leaves (squeeze out excess water), 1/2 cup grated parmesan/pecorino cheese and 1 egg for each 250 grams cooked rice mixture. This represents one quarter of the recipe above.
Add 1 inch cube of mozzarella in the center of each arancini instead of sauce mixture. Proceed as outlined above.
Making arancini can be lengthy but here are some suggestions to make the task more manageable by breaking it down into various steps:
  1.  Cook the rice the day before, cool and refrigerate.
  2.  Prepare your meat sauce a day or two in advance and refrigerate.  You can also prepare a batch, divide into portions and freeze for future use.
  3. The assembled arancini can be refrigerated and fried the following day.                  
  • To make appetizer sized mini arancini, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop your rice. 
  • You'll probably have leftover meat sauce after you have filled the arancini. No problem, you can serve it with pasta or rice another day!
  • To verify if the oil is hot enough for frying, place the handle of a wooden spoon in the hot oil. If the oil immediately begins to bubble vigorously around the handle, the oil is hot enough for frying. 
  • Leftover arancini can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and reheated in a 350F oven for about 15 minutes. 
  • Fried arancini can be frozen up to a month. Thaw and warm in a 350F oven for 15 minutes.
  • Please note that the nutritional information provided is approximate and may vary according to exact portion size. 

Nutrition

Calories: 249kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 65mg | Sodium: 301mg | Potassium: 268mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 245IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 107mg | Iron: 2.6mg