Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Italian Rice Balls (Arancini)

These Italian rice balls are fried to perfection with a melty, mozzarella center. Enjoy the flavor of fresh herbs and Parmesan in every bite!

This dish is so tasty, you’ll want to prepare a couple batches ahead of time just to always have them on hand!

With a crispy, golden-brown outside and a warm and gooey inside, these arancini rice balls will be everyone’s new favorite.

Plus, you can use any leftover grains to make a pot of my turkey soup or this tasty skillet Mexican casserole!

For more bite-sized hits, try out some porcupine meatballs or any one of my famous bomb recipes.

italian rice balls cheese pull

Italian Rice Balls - Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t rush! Allow all the liquid in the pan to be absorbed before adding your next ladle of broth. This will lead to the smooth, thick consistency we’re looking for!
  • Let it cool. Spread your rice mixture into a pan and refrigerate for an hour or two (or overnight!) so it becomes the perfect texture to form spheres.
  • Use plenty of oil. You’ll get the best results when it’s at least 3-inches deep. The Italian rice balls will eventually float, so you can roll them to brown on all sides.
  • Maintain the temperature. Keep a thermometer in the pot to ensure it stays around 375°F. If it’s too low, the spheres will absorb too much of the oil and come out wet and greasy. Too hot, and they will burn.
  • Cheese please! Grocery store mozzarella spheres are usually 16oz, and half of one is the ideal amount to mold into your mounds.
  • Breadcrumb substitutions: While I love the flavor of Italian-style breadcrumb, you can use panko or plain if you prefer!
italian rice balls ingredients

Serving Suggestions

Make this recipe even more delicious by adding some sauces for dipping! My marinara is an obvious choice, but alfredo or pesto would taste incredible as well.

Enjoy them on their own or serve them alongside a creamy eggplant parmesan and a big bowl of salad!

arancini rice balls flat with cheese on top

Kitchen Tools You Will Need
  • Large Skillet - This is my go-to pan that I’ve had for over a decade! It heats evenly and cleans up beautifully with a little baking soda so it still looks brand new.
  • 8 Quart Stock Pot - Great for soups, roasts, frying, and more! This is a staple in my kitchen.
  • Cookie Scoops - This not only makes scooping easier, but it guarantees that all of your arancini rice balls are the same size.
  • Shallow Bowls for dredging, plus a Slotted Spoon to safely get each ball in and out of the oil.
arancini rice balls formed

FAQ - Common Recipe Questions

How do you keep arancini rice balls from falling apart?

Spend time making the base mixture correctly! Adding the liquid gradually while stirring frequently creates a creamy, risotto-like texture. Once this cools, it will be the perfect sticky consistency to form a ball around the cheese.

Am I able to make this recipe ahead of time?

Definitely! Once they are all prepped and covered in breadcrumbs, you can place them in a zippered storage bag and freeze for up to three months.

Thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours before frying as directed.

arancini deep fried

Can I reheat leftover Italian rice balls?

As long as they are properly stored in the refrigerator, you can pop them in the microwave or air fryer until they are warmed through!

arancini rice balls in a stack


With love from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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italian rice balls cheese pull wide shot

Yield: makes 18 arancini rice balls
Author: Donna Elick
Italian Rice Balls (Arancini)

Italian Rice Balls (Arancini)

These Italian rice balls are fried to perfection with a melty, mozzarella center. Enjoy the flavor of fresh herbs and Parmesan in every bite!
Prep time: 30 MinCook time: 1 H & 5 MTotal time: 1 H & 35 M


  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice (we used Jasmine)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
  • 4 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 18 chunks
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and oil.
  2. Add diced onion to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and translucent and beginning to caramelize (about 15 minutes). Add garlic to the pan and saute 1-2 minutes longer.
  3. Pour white wine into the skillet and bring to a simmer. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add rice and fresh herbs to the pan and stir to combine.
  5. Stir in 2 cups of the chicken broth and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Add the remaining broth, a single ladle full at a time, stirring and allowing the liquid to be absorbed into the rice before adding the next ladle of broth. Continue cooking, stirring, and adding broth until the rice is soft and cooked completely, and all of the liquid has been absorbed (about 30 minutes).
  6. Remove rice from the heat and stir in parmesan cheese until melted and evenly distributed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Spread the rice mixture into a pan to cool (cool for an hour or two or even refrigerate overnight).
  8. Use a large spoon or a cookie dough scoop to scoop the rice into a ball about the size of a golf ball. Flatten the rice into a pancake or open bowl shape. Place a chunk of mozzarella cheese in the center of the rice and wrap the rice up around the mozzarella chunk. Roll the rice into a smooth ball.
  9. Begin heating the cooking oil in a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven. Make sure the oil is several inches deep. Heat the oil to precisely 375°F (this will take 15 minutes or so).
  10. Prepare your dredging station. Set up three shallow bowls - one with the flour, one with the eggs, and one with the breadcrumbs.
  11. Dip each rice ball in the flour, then into the eggs, and then into the breadcrumbs. Coat all of the rice balls on all sides. Roll them around until they are golden brown (about 1 minute total).
  12. Lift the fried rice balls from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to soak up any excess oil.
  13. Garnish with a bit of Parmesan cheese and freshly chopped herbs.
  14. Serve hot with marinara or your favorite dipping sauce.
  1. Be sure that the oil is at least 3” deep so that the rice balls can really drop into the hot oil. They will sink at first, but then will float on the oil and you will need to roll them a bit so they brown evenly on all sides.
  2. Maintain the oil temperature consistently for best results. The rice balls will absorb too much oil if the oil is not hot enough. They will burn if the oil is too hot.
  3. The rice mixture is much like a risotto. Stirring frequently and adding the liquid gradually makes a nice creamy rice. Once cooled, it is the perfect consistency to stick together and form a nice ball around the mozzarella chunks.
  4. Standard mozzarella balls from the grocery store are 16 oz. Half of one of these is the perfect amount to cut into 18 uniform squares of cheese.
  5. I like the Italian-style breadcrumbs because of the extra flavors from the herbs added to the mixture, but you can use panko or whatever type of breadcrumbs you prefer.
  6. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave or in the air fryer.

italian rice balls closeup

Originally published December 2021


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