Pizza and pasta are considered two staples of Italian dining that America has been blessed with. However, I think it's time for people in America to step out of their comfort zone. Italy is so much more than pizza and pasta. Each of the country's 20 regions has their own distinct dishes that help feed into the strong foodie culture.

The southernmost region in Italy is the island known as Sicily. Sicily has a reputation for its mouth-watering cuisine and specialties like organic meat, fresh local seafood, and ricotta cheese, which is a fundamental ingredient in cannoli. 

One delicacy Sicily produces are fried rice balls—known as Arancine in the province of the city of Palermo, or Arancini in the province of the city of Catania. They are considered as a snack or antipasto, which is like an appetizer.

The name translates to "little oranges," which is fitting because that is what they look like. Arancine can be filled with either prosciutto and cheese or ground beef and peas. In Sicily, you can typically find them in bars around midday. 

Since immigrating from Sicily, my family gets quite homesick for Sicilian dishes. Most of the time, however, you just can't find the same quality of ingredients here in America. So instead, we use our culinary expertise to improvise. 

Odds are you aren't in Sicily right now, so this family recipe brought over from the old country will have to do for now. Let's eat, amici!

Authentic Arancine

  • Prep Time:45 mins
  • Cook Time:5 mins
  • Total Time:50 mins
  • Servings:12
  • Medium


  • 2 cups Arborio Rice
  • 1 cup peas
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound 80/20 ground beef
  • 24 ounces tomato puree
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 block butter
  • 4 slices smoked ham cut up in pieces
  • 2 large fresh mozzarella balls cut into cubes
  • Vegetable Oil
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  • Step 1

    Cook rice according to package instructions in water one day ahead. Store in fridge.

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  • Step 2

    Heat up olive oil and onion in a skillet at medium high until golden brown.

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  • Step 3

    Bring the peas to a boil in a small pan at high heat.

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  • Step 4

    Add ground beef, tomato puree, salt and pepper to a larger pot. Cook thoroughly for five minutes. Then add the peas and cook for 10 more minutes.

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  • Step 5

    Mix the flour with the water in a bowl to create a mixture. Separate the rice in two different halves. Set one half aside. Melt the block of butter and add it to the other half.

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  • Step 6

    Scoop about 5 ounces of the rice batch without butter to fit the palm of your hand. Compact it first and then make a small indentation.

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  • Step 7

    Fill it with the ground beef and pea filling and close it to form it into a shape of a ball.

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  • Step 8

    Dip each ball onto the water and flour mixture and then roll it into the bread crumbs and set aside on a sheet pan.

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  • Step 9

    Repeat the same process of making the balls for the ham and cheese filling only that this time you will use the rice batch containing butter. Roll these balls in the water and flour mixture and then bread crumbs.

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  • Step 10

    Once you have done this you are ready to start frying. In a medium sized deep skillet, add vegetable oil to fill the skillet half way. Heat up the oil over medium heat. Once hot, start dropping the balls in the skillet.

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  • Step 11

    Closely watch them. As they begin to brown, flip over until they reach a deep golden brown throughout. Once that is achieved, the Arancine are ready.

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  • Step 12

    Using two spoons, pick up the Arancine and set on a plate coated with a couple of sheets of paper towel. Let cool down. Buon Appetito!

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Arancine are best served hot and fresh so be sure to indulge right after you finish cooking. If you have leftovers, stick them in the fridge. When you crave them again, heat them up in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. 

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Arancine are just one of the staples of Sicilian cuisine that my family prepares. Eggplant Caponata is another favorite that is vegetarian friendly and is especially popular in the summer as a side dish. Sicilians have also mastered the art of crafting the perfect ice cream sandwich known as a brioche con gelato.

Of course, each Italian region has its own specialty dishes and it can't hurt to visit each and try them all.