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Arancini are Italian rice balls made with risotto, filled with a cheesy center, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried. They have an incredibly delicious crispy texture on the outside and perfectly creamy filling inside.
This recipe can be served as an Italian appetizer or party snack. And it’s even better when served with warm marinara sauce for dipping!
There may be no better appetizer on earth than these Sicilian cheese-filled rice balls. I was first introduced to arancini years ago at a friends Italian dinner party. His family is from Italy and he grew up in New York City, so whenever he and his Mom would get in the kitchen cooking, I would always make sure to be at that dinner party!
Creamy risotto, cheesy goodness and a crispy breadcrumb shell, I mean seriously, what could be better? If you have leftover risotto already on hand, this arancini recipe is really simple to make! Even if you have to cook the risotto from scratch, it’s still worth every minute of work, once you take your first bite of THE BEST arancini ever!
If you don’t already have risotto on hand, let me recommend making Instant Pot Risotto. It’s easier and requires much less hands-on time than making risotto on the stovetop. It’s also the recipe I used to make the arancini you see pictured throughout this post.
I’ve been making this arancini recipe since 2012 and have used both traditional stove top risotto and Instant Pot risotto to make the recipe. Both produce incredible results, so do whichever is easiest for you!
Table of contents
- Cooked risotto – click the link for my basic Instant Pot parmesan risotto recipe. It’s easy to make and perfect for using in this arancini recipe. If you already have leftover, cooked risotto on hand, even better!
- Ricotta cheese
- Mozzarella cheese – for this recipe I recommend using shredded mozzarella cheese so you can easily mix it in with the ricotta cheese.
- Italian seasoning – I always prefer to use my own homemade seasoning mix. It has the best flavor and it’s easy to mix up in 5 minutes! Click the link for the recipe, or purchase pre-made Italian seasoning at the grocery store.
- Panko bread crumbs
- All purpose flour
- Canola oil – or vegetable oil, will work for frying the arancini. You can also bake or air fry the arancini and skip the oil. More on that later in the post!
I’ve included step by step photos below to make this recipe super easy to follow at home. For the full detailed recipe instructions and ingredient quantities, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
If you don’t already have prepared risotto on hand, be sure to prepare the risotto and let it chill before making the arancini. The risotto should chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before starting the arancini.
Risotto is easy to make with butter, onions, garlic, arborio rice, white wine, chicken broth, salt and black pepper. You can use this Instant Pot Risotto recipe, or this Spinach Artichoke Mushroom Risotto recipe, and simply eliminate adding the vegetables.
Step 1: in a medium bowl, stir to combine ricotta cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese and Italian seasoning.
Step 2: place panko bread crumbs in a shallow bowl, mix in 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning. Whisk 2 large eggs together in a separate shallow bowl. Place flour on a rimmed plate or in another shallow bowl.
Step 3: prepare the arancini by grabbing about 2-3 tablespoons of chilled risotto. You can use an ice cream scoop, sprayed with cooking spray if that’s easier for you to gauge how much to grab. Top the risotto with about 1/2 teaspoon of the cheese mixture. Fold the risotto up and around the cheese mixture, and form into a ball.
Step 4: repeat step 3 until all of the risotto has been formed into balls, filled with the cheese mixture in the middle. This recipe should make 18-20 rice balls.
Step 5: dredge each risotto ball in the flour, shaking off any excess, then roll it in the egg mixture. Drip off any excess egg, then roll the arancini in the bread crumbs until they’re completely coated. Repeat until all of the rice balls are coated in the breadcrumbs.
Step 6: heat 2 inches of oil in a large skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the rice balls to the skillet, 6-8 at a time so you don’t overcrowd the skillet. Cook the rice balls for 2-3 minutes per side, or until browned on all sides. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack, over a stack of paper towels. This way any remaining grease will drain through the wire rack and onto the paper towels, to keep the outside of the arancini super crispy! Repeat until all of the arancini is cooked.
How to make arancini in an air fryer
If you’d like to eliminate the step of frying each of the arancini and cut way down on the oil used to cook the rice balls, use an air fryer instead. Simply add the arancini to the basket of an air fryer in an even layer, leaving at least 1 inch between each of the rice balls. Spray with cooking spray, then air fry at 400°F for 10 minutes.
If you don’t have an air fryer, you can bake the arancini on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 400°F for 20 minutes. Be sure to spray the arancini with cooking spray before baking, to help them turn golden brown on the outside.
While frying the arancini will always give you the most crispy, delicious results, the air fryer method comes in at a close second. Baking the arancini works, but unfortunately doesn’t have the best texture. If you are baking the arancini and have a convection oven, I recommend using that, over conventional baking.
Tips and tricks
- You can prepare the risotto up to 4 days in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the arancini.
- You can prepare the arancini up to 1 day in advance and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook them.
- This recipe makes 18-20 rice balls. If you’d like to double the recipe, simply hover over the “servings” amount in the recipe card below and change it from 20, up to 40. This will automatically update all of the ingredient amounts in the recipe card.
- To reheat leftover arancini, I highly recommend the air fryer. Placing the arancini in the air fryer at 400°F for 5 minutes will crisp them right back up! If you don’t have an air fryer, I recommend heating 1 teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then adding the arancini and re-frying them for 1-2 minutes per side, until crisp again on the outside.
- If you’d like more of a gooey cheesy center, than creamy cheesy center, ditch the ricotta cheese and use small balls of mozzarella cheese (also known as Ciliegine) in the middle of the rice balls.
- While I pan fried the arancini, you can also deep fry them if you have a deep-fryer at home, or a large dutch oven, you can fill with oil. Deep-frying is the traditional way to cook arancini, I like to use the pan-frying method to save oil.
Sauces for arancini
These delicious rice balls can be served on their own, but they’re also great dunked into a scrumptious sauce! Try any of these sauces, or serve the arancini with a trio of sauces, so you can try them all out.
For the marinara sauce, I recommend heating it up in a saucepan on the stove before serving it with the arancini.
What to serve with it
Arancini is delicious as an appetizer, party snack or part of an Italian dinner feast. The first time I made this arancini recipe, I served it with Tomato Basil Bruschetta and Italian Meatballs, combining all my favorite Italian appetizers into an incredible meal!
This is a great option, or you can serve it as a starter paired with any of the delicious Italian recipes found below.
More Italian recipes
Try these other TESTED AND PERFECTED Italian recipes from my kitchen to your home!
- Three Cheese Manicotti
- Italian Sausage Shells and Cheese
- Vegetarian Lasagna
- Slow Cooker Beef Ragu
- Kurt’s Famous Pan Pizza
- Pasta Fagioli Soup
- In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning.
- Place the panko bread crumbs in a shallow bowl, mix in 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning.
- Add the flour to another shallow bowl and whisk the eggs together in a third shallow bowl.
- Grab about 2-3 tablespoons of cooked risotto, spoon ½ teaspoon of the cheese mixture in the middle and wrap the risotto around it. Repeat until all of the risotto has been filled with cheese and rolled into balls.
- Dredge each risotto ball in the flour, shaking off any excess, then roll it in the egg mixture. Drip off any excess egg, then roll the arancini in the bread crumbs until they’re completely coated.
- Repeat until all of the rice balls are coated in the breadcrumbs.
- Once all of the arancini are prepared, place them in the refrigerator to chill while you heat the oil to fry them.
- Heat canola oil in a large frying pan, add the arancini, 6-8 at a time so you don't overcrowd the pan, and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
- Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack, over a stack of paper towels. Repeat until all of the arancini is cooked.
- Alternatively you can spray the arancini with cooking spray and cook them in an air fryer at 400°F for 10 minutes, or bake them on a baking sheet in the oven at 400°F for 20 minutes.
- The risotto can be made up to 4 days in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the arancini.
- The arancini can be made up to 1 day in advance and stored in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook them.
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