Legendary Dishes | Arancino / Arancini | rice balls

Train in Boat on Messina Strait

On the ferry across the Messina Strait (an experience soon to be consigned to history), delicious arancini can be found in the spacious café. Some days they are round in the fashion of the migrant bakers, other days they are tapered in the style of the rural mama.

Broken open they reveal a ragù usually made with minced meat, thick tomato paste, peas, a bit of onion, and the occasional herb. In the centre of the tapered ball is a cube of melted cheese.


If you ever get the chance to look into a Sicilian kitchen you will notice the cooks making their Arancini on marble slabs. First they will take the rice that has been cooked al dente and lightly salted, mixing it with the pecorino, saffron and two beaten eggs.

With a dexterity refined by long experience they will mould the rice into a large ball with one hand, making a hole in the centre.

The other hand is then free to spoon some ragù into the hole, finishing the operation with a cube of cheese. More rice is added to seal in the filling, and the shape is completed.

The cook will already have prepared the flour and breadcrumbs on separate plates and beaten the third egg in a cup. The Arancini are then floured, egged and breadcrumbed, fried in hot oil and baked in a hot oven for 15 minutes.

Round Arancini are generally stuffed with ragù and with cheese but a version not unlike the Albanian rice ball containing spinach is now apparent in northern Italy, especially in Venice and Verona, where vialone nano rice was born.

  • 500 g vialone nano rice
  • 200 g ragù (or 100 g minced beef fried with 80 g peas, 60 g tomato sauce and a little water, cooked until sauce is thick)
  • 3 eggs
  • 100 g mozzarella, cut into two centimetre cubes
  • 50 g breadcrumbs
  • 50 g flour
  • 50 g pecorino cheese, grated
  • Saffron, softened in warm water

Follow the instructions above. Don’t worry about the marble slab.


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