Alex's Recipes


Sicilian Rice Dumplings Arancini


makes 12 Arancini

Pronounced "ah-ron-chee-nee", this word translates literally into "little oranges" because of the way these golden-fried rice balls appear. They are a favorite Sicilian street food, eaten out-of-hand at rosticerrie. They are also a favorite at the dinner table accompanied by a large salad. They are usually eaten warm as opposed to hot, and the filling, for the most part, is chopped pork and onions, or chopped chicken and peas cooked in tomato sauce. Often you will find them loaded with soft Mozzarella cheese in the middle.



1 quart water or HomeMade Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, finely chopped, or 1/8 teaspoon ground saffron
2 cups arborio or Vialone rice
2-1/2 cups Marinara Sauce
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
8 ounces uncooked chicken meat, boned, or the same amount pork, or 8 oz both
Lard for browning meat, q.b.
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh or frozen tiny peas
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups plain, fine bread crumbs (you'll have lots left over)
3 cups olive oil or other vegetable oil


Optional: use Mozzarella, Teleme, or Monterey Jack cheese instead of the chicken mixture as a stuffing. Allow about 1/2 ounce per rice ball. Make the arancini as directed below.

Place the water or chicken broth, salt, pepper, and saffron in a medium-sized saucepan with a lid, bring it to a boil over high heat, and then lower the heat. Add the rice all at once, and stir for a moment. Replace the lid on the pan, and simmer rice for about 16 minutes, or until it is tender but al dente. The liquid should be thoroughly absorbed. If you find it is not, continue to cook the rice over medium heat with the lid off until the rice is sticky but not wet. When the rice is done, remove it from the heat, and add the tomato sauce and the grated cheese, and mix it well. Set it aside in the pan to cool for about 2 hours. (You may refrigerate it, well covered, after 2 hours if you wish, and continue the rest of the recipe the next day.)


Cut the meat into large chunks, and in a frying pan brown them in some olive oil or lard over medium heat. When the meat is brown, add the onion, and gently brown that also, but do not make it too dark. Add 1 cup of marinara sauce, and cook the mixtire slowly for about an hour. Add fresh or frozen peas and cook it for 5 minutes longer.

Remove the meat from the sauce with a slotted spoon, let it cool until you can just handle it, and using your fingers and perhaps a fork, shred all the meat into fairly small pieces. Return the meat to the pan.

When the rice and tomato mixture is cool, add 2 of the eggs, and mix well. Take about one twelfth of the mixture, and pat it out on the palm of one hand so that it looks like a thick crepe. Place about 2 tablespoonfuls of the meat mixture into the center of the rice crepe, and gently close your hand so that you envelop the meat. Do the same thing if you are using the optional cheese. Shape the mass into a rounded ball using both hands, gently circulating one against the other. Lay the finished ball on a cookie sheet or on a large piece of wax paper, and continue until you have used up all of the ingredients.


Beat two eggs lightly in a low-sided dish. Spread the bread crumbs in a low-sided dish. Roll the arancini in the egg mixture, and then roll them around in the bread crumbs. As you finish each one, set it on a cookie sheet or some wax paper.

Heat the oil to about 350deg. F in a deep fryer, put in as many arancini as will fit comfortably in the pan, and fry them until they are a deep golden color. Remove them with a slotted spoon, and lay them on absorbent paper or on a clean kitchen towel. If you have a lot of them, store them in a warm oven as you make them. Keep the oven door ajar so they will stay hot but with the air circulating around them.

Arancini can be very successfully frozen after forming them into balls. Arancini are perfect for lunch accompanied by a large green salad, or they make a delicious first course followed by roast lamb or large slices of roasted fish such as sea bass.






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