Arancini are well-known for their crispy exterior, crunchy rice centre and magical gooey cheese filling at its core.

Considered Italy’s favourite fried snack, these rice balls – fondly known as “little oranges” in Italian for their similar shape and colour, come from Sicily. As with many Italian dishes, each region has their own version. Actually, it is mind boggling how many different fillings and shapes there are! Here are a few worth mentioning:

The Sicilians shaped their arancini conical. This shape is meant to look like Mount Etna with its filling looking like the lava. The rice is made simply using arborio risotto rice and filled with a ragù (meat & tomato-based sauce) and mozzarella or caciocavallo cheese pieces.

Whereas in Rome, they are oblong or round shaped and only have a mozzarella & light tomato sauce filling (aka suppli or arancini di riso al telefono due to the stringy cheese appearing like a telephone line!). Sicilians refuse to accept suppli as an arancini, even though they are so similar. Just don’t utter the word “suppli” while visiting Sicily!

Going up towards the northern regions, arancini is mainly prepared from leftover risotto Milanese (saffron risotto), mozzarella (and sometimes ham). I like this version the best as it is practical using up any leftover risotto, has an uncomplicated filling and can be made bite size. Perfect as a party food served with a robust tomato dipping sauce like arrabbiata sauce. Packing a few leftover arancini in your children’s lunch boxes will be the talk of the playground!

Please only use arborio rice as regular rice does not have the same sticking power when forming the balls.

Gluten-Free Arancini Di Riso (Fried Risotto Balls)
Ingredients:

Makes 20 mini or 7 large arancini

For the filling:

    • 700g cold risotto (recipe below)
    • 1 egg
    • 20 bocconcini balls (baby mozzarella balls) or 1 mozzarella ball
    • 2 slices of prosciutto or smoked ham cut in small pieces (optional)
    • 10 basil leaves, torn

For the coating:

Step by Step Instructions

1. Mix the risotto and 1 egg together.

2. Roll the cold risotto into mini balls using wet hands.

3. Poke your finger into the centre.

4. Push a bocconcini ball, basil and ham (optional) into the centre

5. Cover the hole with cold risotto and roll it one final time.
6. Place on a tray and continue with the rest.

7. Heat the cooking oil to 180 C/350 F or until a piece of bread (gluten-free, of course!) turns golden and crisp in less than one minute.

8. Start coating, first with gluten-free flour, then the beaten eggs and finally roll in the gluten-free breadcrumbs

9. Add a few at a time to the oil and remove when they are golden and floating.

10. Drain on a wire mesh rack

11. Serve with basil leaves, arrabbiata tomato sauce and lemon wedges.

ARRABBIATA SAUCE

Ingredients:
This recipe is enough for a dipping sauce

  • 200ml Passata (strained tomato puree sauce)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Sprig of basil and some parsley stems, whole
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • ½ teaspoon of dried chilli flakes (leave out if preparing for children)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Cracked pepper, to taste

Step by Step Instructions

1. Fry the garlic, basil & parsley stems gently in some olive oil for 3 minutes.

2. Add the tomato passata sauce & fresh herbs. Simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Add the chilli flakes, salt, pepper & sugar. 

4. Remove the stems before serving.

RISOTTO
Ingredients:

This is a basic risotto prepared specifically for the arancini filling. However, if you would like to have this on its own as a meal, simply add your favourite vegetables at step 5.

  • 500g arborio rice
  • 2 tablespoons gluten-free store-bought vegetable stock or homemade vegetable stock mixed with 1 litre of hot water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 200ml dry white wine (or substitute 200ml more of stock)
  • A pinch of saffron or turmeric powder (optional)
  • 30g Parmesan cheese, grated
  • White pepper and salt, to taste
  • Extra butter, to taste

Step by Step Instructions

1. Mix the vegetable stock with the hot water in a medium pot and simmer over a low heat.

2. If using saffron, place the strands in a small bowl and place an ice-cube on top to draw out the colour. Leave to one side until step 8.

3. In a deep pot, heat the olive oil and butter over a medium heat.

4. Add the onions and fry gently for 5 minutes.

5. Add the garlic and fry for 3 minutes.
6. From this step forward, you will need to dedicate 20 minutes at the stove, stirring constantly: Add the rice and gently fry for 2 minutes.
7. Add the wine and stir for 2 minutes.
8. Add the saffron and melted ice-cube and stir well. If saffron is hard to come by, substitute a pinch of turmeric powder which gives the risotto a soft yellow colour.
9. Increase the heat to medium-high.
10. Add a soup ladle full of the vegetable stock and stir constantly. Once evaporated, continue adding the stock one ladle full at time until the rice is cooked. The rice should taste soft and smooth inside with a slight bite on the outside. If it tastes “chalky” continue adding more stock.
11. For the arancini filling, there should be no stock floating around the risotto.
12. Turn the heat off.
13. Add the grated Parmesan cheese to the risotto and stir well.
14. Add extra butter and season.
15. Serve as a meal or allow to cool in the fridge for several hours before assembling arancini.

Asparagus, peas, spring vegetables or mushrooms work well in risotto as well as prawns, chicken and chopped bacon