Recipes   /   Arancini di Riso – Risotto Croquettes

Arancini di Riso – Risotto Croquettes

Jun 1, 2020 by Gabriele Corcos


My friend Anthony Bourdain used to say: “When you travel, always try to skip airplane meals, only a few things are as exciting as arriving hungry in a new place”.

Last summer, for the very first time, Debi and I traveled through Sicily with our daughters; as they are growing up, the level of adventure, and the excitement is becoming more “adult”, as we explore places we have never been together before. I will never forget our arrival at the Palermo airport around 2pm in a super hot summer day. After a quick flight from Florence we were eager to jump on our rental car and drive straight to Scopello (one of the most beautiful places in the world), where we had reserved our little apartment in an old tuna fishing farm. 

As we exited the airplane and started walking to the luggage area, we found ourselves engulfed in a cloud of hot fried air that carried along the warmest sense of welcome and homecoming. Without looking at each other, without pausing to think or discuss, we all walked straight toward a small counter at the very end of the concessions’ stand line… and like us, at least another dozen of passengers from our same flight, decided to start their Sicilian vacation by savoring a few traditional and hyper local Arancini di riso.

Common throughout Sicily, but historically connected with the cities of Palermo and Messina, Arancini are deep fried balls of saffron infused risotto with a filling of either meat sauce and peas, or mozzarella and prosciutto. As simple as it gets, as delicious as you might hope, as comforting as your grandmother’s best hugs, this recipe is incredibly easy and fairly quick to execute… well, kind of.

While tradition is always great to keep alive and pass down to new generations, I invite you to use this recipe to recycle any risotto recipe or filling you might like: last week I repurposed our zucchini and shrimp risotto recipe into a banging mid afternoon snack that went great with a couple of iced beers!

Makes: 12-14  / Prep Time: 20 mins / Inactive Time: 2 hours / Cooking Time: 10-15 mins


1 lb Risotto rice (traditional, Vialone Nano)

6 cups of water

1 cup grated Parmigiano (traditional, Caciocavallo)

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tsp Saffron



1 oz unsmoked ham (prosciutto cotto), cut into 1/4″ cubes

2 oz mozzarella, cut into 1/4″ cubes

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley


1.5 cup of flour

1.25 cup of water



2 cups breadcrumbs, unseasoned

vegetable oil


1Bring water to a boil, stir in rice and let cook until most water is absorbed. Infuse the saffron in a 1/2 cup of warm water and add to the rice, along with the butter, the grated cheese and a pinch of salt. Cook until all water has been absorbed, and rice is sticky and of golden color.

2 Spread the rice on a large sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap to prevent from drying. Let cool off for about 2 hours.

3In a medium size bowl, mix together flour and water to make the traditional Pastella, season lightly with a pinch of salt and mix until smooth.

4Heat the vegetable oil to 150C/302F. If you don’t have a frying thermometer you can use the old trick of dipping in the oil a wooden spoon; if air bubbles escape the wood as if it was frying, you are at a good enough temperature to start.

5Collect a handful of rice in the palm of your hand, shape like a half cup and fill with a few pieces of prosciutto, cheese and a sprinkle of parsley, wrap the rice around it and shape into a ball.

6One at the time, to give you the right pace, since you will have to fry in batches, roll a rice ball into the Pastella mix, shake gently and then roll into the breadcrumbs.

7Gently slide the ball into the oil and fry until golden and crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Do not fry more than 2-3 arancini at the time or the temperature of the oil will drop and the filling won’t melt properly.

8Let the Arancini cool off on a rack or on a sheet pan lined with butcher paper for a few minutes before serving.

9If you are entertaining and or feeding children, always test the temperature inside by slicing one in half. This balls are true fire if you rush eating them.

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