Italian rice balls (Arancini)

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Deliciously crispy and golden outside, soft and creamy inside, and with a core of molten mozzarella, these Italian rice balls, or “arancini di riso,” will surely please a crowd!

Published July 2022/updated March 2024

A blue ball full of crispy golden Italian rice balls also called arancini.

Saturday is the perfect day to reshare one of the most delicious and popular Italian appetizers: arancini. These fantastic Italian street food treats are made with sticky risotto balls filled with gooey mozzarella and fried until they’re perfectly crisp. They’re SO hard to resist!

Traditionally, these scrumptious rice balls are staples of Sicilian cuisine. The most common fillings include beef ragù with peas or mozzarella and prosciutto (ham) and many vegetarian options.

My mum, who was from Sicily, used to make them with saffron-infused rice, mozzarella, and provolone cheese. Her incredible recipe inspired these delicious little rice balls with mozzarella.

And I love them because they are versatile, economical (well, apart from the saffron!), perfect for sharing, and if you make them a bit smaller, you can serve them as a terrific Italian appetizer.

Bonus? You can use leftover risotto, customize the filling with your favorite ingredients, make them 100% vegetarian, and are also freezable!

Let’s make Italian rice balls this weekend! : )

List of the ingredients

  • Risotto rice
  • Vegetable broth
  • Butter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Saffron (optional)
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Flour & water
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt & pepper
The ingredients to make these Italian rice balls are arranged over a white background.

How to make Italian rice balls (arancini)

(Note: this is a quick description; the full recipe is at the bottom of the page)

  • To make the rice, you can either start with a classic risotto method or you can cook the rice in broth. Both methods work.
  • Spread the risotto onto a large baking tray and set aside.
  • Make the arancini coating by whisking water and flour.
Top view of a glass bowl full of arancini coating made with water and flour.
  • Divide the cold risotto into 10 pieces and flatten each piece in damp hands.
  • Cup the mixture, fill the center with mozzarella, and shape it into a ball.
  • Coat the rice balls in the flour mixture, then roll them to coat them with breadcrumbs.
A hand showing how to shape the rice balls to make Italian arancini.
  • Deep fry the arancini in batches for 3 minutes at a time.
  • Drain them on the kitchen paper and sprinkle with a little salt.
  • They are best served hot and freshly fried. When they’re still warm the creamy melted mozzarella cheese stretches from your hands to your mouth in thin, delicious strands. How yummy is that?! : )
Close-up of an Italian rice ball showing the melted mozzarella strings.

Recipe Notes

Before we get into the recipe below, here are some things to remember about the ingredients and possible substitutions.

Ingredients & substitutions

Rice: Risotto rice such as carnaroli, vialone, or arborio is perfect for the recipe. Short-grain sushi rice would also work, but long-grain rice, like basmati, is not an option here as you need a sticky rice mixture. The good news is you can also use your leftover risotto that you might have on hand.

Butter: In this easy arancini recipe, the butter is used at the end to make the rice creamy and flavorful.

Parmesan: it adds plenty of flavor and makes the rice richer.

Broth: For more flavor.

Saffron: The classic arancini recipe uses saffron, which lends flavor and color, making them look like “little oranges” (that’s why they are called “arancini” or arancine” in Italian). However, saffron is an expensive spice, and I’m using it here for the sake of tradition, but you’re welcome to skip it. ; )

Mozzarella: I always use fresh mozzarella in water for this recipe. And if you want more fresh mozzarella recipes, this collection is perfect to inspire you!

Flour: All-purpose flour mixed with water creates the perfect coating for arancini without the need for beaten eggs!

Breadcrumbs: Fine breadcrumbs work better than panko crumbs and make a nice, smooth, crispy outside.

Salt & pepper: Season the rice to taste and make sure it’s flavorful, not bland.

Close-up of fried arancini on a black background showing the molten mozzarella.

more tips for you

How to customize your “arancini”

Once you’ve made risotto, stir in chopped parsley, basil, or your favorite herbs, and fill the center of your rice balls with extra ingredients that pair beautifully with mozzarella. You might try cooked peas, sautéed spinach, sun-dried tomato pesto or paste, arugula pesto, gorgonzola, diced ham, ground beef ragu’, or salami if you choose the meat option.

Fried or baked?

If you want to cut back on the oil, place the arancini on a baking sheet, spray with olive oil, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until crisp and golden (at 200C/390F). However, I’m not lying to you: the oven dries out, and baked arancini have a different texture, less soft and less moist than fried arancini.

How to make them ahead

Yes, once these Italian rice balls are coated in breadcrumbs, they keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days and are freezable, too. But I suggest deep fry your rice balls just before serving for the best result. Hot, crispy, and delicious are best!

Storage Tips

If you’ve already fried them, no problem. They keep well in the fridge for 2-3 days and are freezable. To serve them, preheat the oven to 180C/350F and bake them for 10-12 minutes. If the rice balls are frozen, make sure you thaw them first.

A hand holding one of the Italian rice balls and showing the moist and delicious texture.

Looking for more classic Italian appetizers?

I’ve got you covered with this incredible collection of Italian appetizer recipes perfect for any occasion. Below are a few of my favorites!

If you make these Italian rice balls or have a question, let me know by commenting. I would love to hear from you and get your feedback! x

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Italian Rice balls (Arancini)

Deliciously crispy and golden outside, soft and creamy inside with a core of molten mozzarella, these Italian rice balls called "arancini" are sure to please a crowd!
The recipe yields 10 servings (each rice ball with about 7cm/3inch diameter)
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Course: Appetizers
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Italian rice balls
Servings: 10 servings
Author: Katia


  • 2 ¼ cup (540 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt, or more to taste
  • 1 cup (200 grams) Italian risotto rice (Arborio, carnaroli…)
  • 1 pinch saffron strands (optional)
  • teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ (60-70 grams) Mozzarella ball in water, diced


  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 ½ cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying


Cook the rice

  • If you use saffron, place the strands in a glass with 2 Tablespoons of warm water. Let them soak.
  • Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot and add the salt and rice. Reduce to medium heat and cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the saffron and the colored water, and keep cooking for a further 5 minutes or until cooked. Add a touch of extra liquid if needed. Keep stirring.
  • Turn the heat off, stir in the butter and the parmesan cheese, add freshly ground black pepper, taste, and make sure you're happy with the seasoning.
  • Then scrape the cooked rice onto a large baking tray, spread it in a thin, even layer, and set aside for at least 1 hour or until cold. Once it's cold enough, you can also transfer it into a bowl and place it in the fridge if you plan to use it later or the day after.
  • Cut the mozzarella into 10 pieces, and pat dry them with kitchen paper.

Shape the rice balls

  • Once the risotto has cooled completely, divide the mixture into 10 pieces and flatten each piece in damp hands. Cup the mixture in the palm of your hand and fill the center with a piece of mozzarella. Shape into a ball by bringing the sides up and sealing at the top. Shaping is much easier with clean, damp hands, so make sure to wash them often.
  • Repeat this with the remaining mixture, and place the rice balls onto a tray.

Arancini coating

  • Whisk water, flour, and salt in a bowl until smooth, and place the breadcrumbs onto a plate.
  • Coat the balls in the flour mixture and then in the breadcrumbs. Space them out on a large baking tray. Repeat until all the arancini are coated.

Fry them

  • Heat about 2 cups/480 ml of vegetable oil in a heavy-based pan to 170°C – if you don’t have a thermometer, test the temperature by dropping in a small cube of bread; if the oil is hot enough, the bread should brown in around 30 seconds. Fry the arancini in batches for 2-3 minutes at a time or until nicely golden-brown, making sure they are not crowded in the pan and there's enough oil to cover them. Once done, lift them with a slotted spoon and place them to drain on the kitchen towel or paper. Sprinkle with a bit of salt while still hot.
  • Enjoy them freshly fried and still warm.


Can I make arancini ahead of time? 
Once these Italian rice balls are coated in breadcrumbs, they keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days and are freezable. For the best result, I suggest you deep-fry your rice balls just before serving them.
How do you store arancini leftovers? 
If you’ve already fried them, they keep well in the fridge for up to 2-3 days in an air-tight container, and they’re freezable as well. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F to serve them, and bake them for 10-12 minutes. If the rice balls are frozen, make sure you thaw them first.


  1. What is standard USA measure for 70 grams of fresh soft mozzarella?
    Internet does not recognize “soft mozzarella “)🙄😞

    1. No problem. The recipe says about 1/2 mozzarella ball packed in water which is about 2.5 oz. Hope this helps. X

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