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Fried Stuffed Rice Balls (Arancine)

These savory little rice balls are known as arancine, or “little oranges,” due to their golden crust, which gives them the appearance of their namesakes. The classic filling is a rich meat and tomato sauce with peas—although stuffing them with various types of cheese, with cheese and prosciutto, or with chopped vegetables in a white or cheese sauce, is also popular. Similar to the Roman supplì al telefono, arancine are served as snack food in bars and cafés all over Sicily. They can be assembled up to an hour in advance and fried at the last minute, or they can be fried and kept warm in a low oven for up to an hour.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 cup medium-grain white rice, such as Arborio
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups fine dried bread crumbs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 oz. prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
  • Vegetable or light olive oil for deep-frying

Directions:

In a saucepan over high heat, combine the stock and saffron and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice, butter and salt. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the rice is tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

Transfer the rice to a bowl and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Let cool slightly, then stir in the whole egg and egg yolk. Let cool completely.

Spread the flour and bread crumbs separately on 2 dinner plates. In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the egg whites.

Moisten your hands with water. Scoop up 1/4 cup of the rice mixture and place it in the cupped palm of your hand. Flatten out the mixture slightly and place about one-twelfth of the prosciutto and mozzarella in the center. Mold the rice over the filling, adding a bit more rice if needed to cover it completely. Shape the rice into a ball. Roll the ball in the flour and then in the egg whites to coat completely. Finally, roll the ball in the bread crumbs. Place on a wire rack to dry for at least 15 minutes. Continue with the remaining ingredients to make 12 balls, rinsing your hands frequently to prevent the rice from sticking to them.

In a heavy saucepan or a deep-fat fryer, pour in enough oil to cover the rice balls by 1 inch once they are added. (This much oil is necessary so that the balls cook evenly and do not burst.) Heat the oil to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer, or until the oil sizzles when a bit of the egg white is dropped into it. Using a slotted spoon or a wire skimmer, gently lower a few of the rice balls into the pan; do not crowd the pan. Fry until golden brown and crisp all over, about 2 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the rice balls to paper towels to drain. Keep warm while you fry the remaining rice balls.

Arrange the rice balls on a warmed platter and serve immediately. Makes 12.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Italy, by Michele Scicolone (Time-Life Books, 1999).