Italia. The land of good food and wine, am I wrong? In particular, the pinnacle of pizza and pasta. The home of dough and tomato sauce. And don't forget the high-quality coffee as well.

But what about rice? Nah, I mean we have risotto, but certainly rice is not an Italian specialty, right?

Alas, a lot of times people forget that Italy actually has quite the expansive cuisine; that it is not always every type of topping you could image on pizzas, weird stuffings inside of tortellinis, and the infamous gelato. No, you would get in serious trouble if you asked for stuffed crust in a typical trattoria in Italy

Elaborate seafood dishes, ossobuco (veal shanks which sometimes includes the actual bone marrow), soups of all different kinds, the list continues. These are just a few examples of the wide variety of dishes you can find in Italy. And yes, rice is a major contender in several Italian dishes, whether in the northern part of the country or the southern tip of the boot. 

So the next time you are invited to a cookout, potluck, or summer picnic and don't know what to make, you can pull out a little Italian flare to impress your friends and family as well as be able to make something that is not too terribly hard and easy to pack. 

I mean, it involves cheese and frying. How could anything go wrong? 

The answer to your cookout dilemma: Arancini Di Riso, or Sicilian Rice Balls. These bundles of goodness are stuffed with mozzarella and ham, and are made with a rice based mixture which includes more cheese, butter, and saffron. This dish originates from the southern part of Italy, but is enjoyed all over the country. 

Get out your pots and pan, start frying up this dish, and maybe pour a glass of wine as well. Be warned, you may be asked to make this easy Arancini recipe again and again. 

Sicilian Rice Balls (Arancini di Riso)

  • Prep Time:40 mins
  • Cook Time:50 mins
  • Total Time:1 hr 30 mins
  • Servings:10
  • Medium


  • 2 1/2 cups Arborio or Viale Nano rice
  • 1 quart + 2 cups water divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 10 small cubes mozzarella cheese
  • 10 small slices ham
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • Oil for frying
parsley, chicken, meat, vegetable
Mireille Heidbreder
  • Step 1

    Pour 1 quart and 3/4 cups of water into a pot and bring to a boil. Then add the rice and pinch of salt to the pot and stir until the water is milky and the rice is spread throughout. Let rice cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.

    #SpoonTip: You will know the rice is cooked and ready when almost all of the water has evaporated and the rice seems sticky and starchy.

  • Step 2

    Take the rice off of the stove and add the butter and saffron. Mix until the rice becomes a golden yellow color.

    #SpoonTip: Add a little bit of water (1/2 tsp should work) to your saffron so it dissolves a bit when you add it to the rice, so it is easier and faster to mix.

  • Step 3

    Once the rice is yellowed, add the grated Parmesan and mix well. Let rice mixture cool for about 10 minutes at room temperature.

  • Step 4

    Pour rice onto a baking pan and spread it out evenly, as well as flatten it out with a spoon. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the rice rest at room temperature for about 2 hours.

  • Step 5

    Take the pan of rice and grab about a handful to roll into a ball. Then make a dent in the rice ball in order to stuff it with a small cube of mozzarella cheese and slice of ham. Roll up the rice ball once more and make sure you REALLY compress the ball. Set balls aside on a baking sheet so they do not stick.

  • Step 6

    Mix the flour, remaining 1 1/4 cups of water, and another pinch of salt to a mixing bowl and whisk the ingredients until mixture is completely smooth.

  • Step 7

    Take rice balls and drench them in the batter, then coat the balls in breadcrumbs. Repeat for every single rice ball that was formed and set aside on a non-stick pan or baking sheet.

  • Step 8

    Prepare a pan with oil to fry the rice balls at 340°F. Place each rice ball individually into the oil and fry for about 5 minutes, turning the sides of the ball around every minute or so, to allow for the entire rice ball to brown evenly.

  • Step 9

    Take rice ball out of the oil and set on paper towels so any excess oil and grease can drain off. Let cool for a few minutes and then enjoy!

Recipe inspired by Giallo Zafferano