Cheesy Italian Rice Balls Recipe (Sicilian Arancini)

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These Italian rice balls are fried to perfection with a melty, mozzarella center. Enjoy the flavor of fresh herbs and Parmesan in every bite! They’re golden brown goodness loaded with mozzarella cheese in every bite. The first time you make them, you’ll be hooked. 

titled (shown in woman's hand) Italian rice balls


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

There’s just something delicious about holding them in the palm of your hand. This is one of my favorite foods, and I love that this great recipe is so simple to make.

If oyu’re a fan of Italian food, you’re going to love these. They’re my favorite appetizer – and also make the perfect Italian snacks. 

arancini ingredients in bowls on counter

Italian Rice Balls

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. Or this appetizer is a hit anytime!

arancini rice balls flat with cube of cheese on top of rice

Arancini 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 the arancini balls.
  • 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 arancini rice balls 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 breadcrumbs, you can use panko or plain if you prefer! 
  • Add parchment paper. Want easy clean up? Adding parchment paper to your baking sheet or casserole dish that you place these in is a great option. 
  • Change the cheesy center. I’m all about adding more cheese or changing it up. I also love adding parmesan cheese, too. 
arancini rice balls formed


While we recommend sticking to the recipe for the fried rice balls the first few times, you can experiment with the filling. 

Consider adding chopped mushrooms, crispy bacon, spinach, fresh herbs, or chicken to the filling. 

The best way to enjoy these cheesy rice balls is to make them however you want. You can opt for a meat filling or stick with cheese. 

removing deep fried arancini from hot oil

Serving Suggestions

Make this rice balls 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 the fried rice balls on their own, or serve them alongside a creamy eggplant parmesan and a big bowl of salad!

Italian Rice Balls FAQ

What is the best rice to use?

We used jasmine, but you could also use arborio or carnaroli. They would all be great choices and hold together well, so the fried rice balls are more likely to stay together. 

How do you keep arancini 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 arancini balls around the cheese.

Am I able to make this rice balls 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.

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!

How do I keep these risotto balls from sticking to my hands while making them? 

Having wet hands is the key. The next time you make them, have damp hands. 
How do I remove the cheesy balls from the oil? 

Once the balls start to float, you want to get them out of the vegetable oil fast. Using a slotted spoon is going to be your best bet for removing them from the hot oil. Place them on a paper towel, in a single layer, so that the excess great can drip off. 

You are then ready to sprinkle on a bit more Italian seasoning or have meat sauce or warm marinara sauce for dipping. I like to let the balls cool to room

temperature because they’re hot! You can let them cool in a shallow bowl for 2-3 minutes so that they’re medium heat instead of hot. 

You can add a little lemon zest over the top or to the balls of rice for an extra burst of flavor. Pair with some white wine or red wine, and enjoy eating these Sicilian rice balls! 

close up of cheesy italian rice recipe

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Other Easy Italian Recipes

woman's hands pulling apart cheesy fried italian appetizer

Cheesy Italian Rice Balls Recipe (Sicilian Arancini)

Donna Elick
These Italian rice balls are fried to perfection with a melty, mozzarella center. Enjoy the flavor of fresh herbs and Parmesan in every bite!
5 stars from 1 review
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Method Stovetop
Servings 18


  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, 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


  • In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and oil.
  • 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.
  • Pour white wine into the skillet and bring to a simmer. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half (about 5 minutes).
  • Add rice and fresh herbs to the pan and stir to combine.
  • 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).
  • Remove rice from the heat and stir in parmesan cheese until melted and evenly distributed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Spread the rice mixture into a pan to cool (cool for an hour or two or even refrigerate overnight).
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Prepare your dredging station. Set up three shallow bowls – one with the flour, one with the eggs, and one with the breadcrumbs.
  • 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).
  • Lift the fried rice balls from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to soak up any excess oil.
  • Garnish with a bit of parmesan cheese and freshly chopped herbs.
  • Serve hot with marinara or your favorite dipping sauce.

Donna’s Notes

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave or in the air fryer.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 212cal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 414mg | Sugar: 1g | Fiber: 1g | Calcium: 121mg | Iron: 1mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled pinterest collage for arancini recipe

Originally published December 2021, updated and republished January 2024

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  1. 5 stars
    These take some time but they are so worth it! Rice is one of my favorite foods, and using it this way only makes me love it even more.

  2. I tripled the recipe to make these rice balls for a Holiday Party. They turned out great! The recipe instructs to take your time while making the risotto. Excellent advice in order to have a creamy texture inside. This is definitely a recipe to keep and use again. I served with marinara and freshly grated Parmesan. Perfect!

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