Arancini, the Sicilian meat rice balls

The Arancini, the Sicilian meat rice balls, are one of the most representative and worth to taste dishes of Sicily. The name, which is translated as “little orange”, derives from their shape and colour, which is reminiscent of an orange after cooking. They are unique delicacies and can be stuffed with a variety of mixtures, but a meat sauce, or ragu, is the most traditional.

Recipe details

Region: Sicily
Dish: Main
Servings: 6-7 people
Preparation time: few hours
Cooking time: 15 minutes – For the sauce meat: about 2 hours
Level of Difficulty: High


For the rice

  • 1,300 kg super thin arborio rice. With these doses you will get about twenty meat rice balls
  • Approx. three litres of meat broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 onion
  • 100 g of butter
  • 2 sachets of saffron (even better saffron strands)
  • 250 g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 200 g diced primosale cheese
  • Corn oil for frying
  • Abundant breadcrumbs

For the meat sauce:

  • 400 g of minced beef meat
  • 1 onion
  • 100 g tomato paste
  • 50 g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves
  • 200 g fresh peas net of skins (frozen peas are fine too)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ glass of white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

arancini-al-raguMake the rice

Prepare the rice about twelve hours before making meat rice balls (it must be cold). In order to obtain excellent meat rice balls, the dough has to be quite hard and sticky.
Prepare the broth in which the saffron will be melt.
Sauté the finely chopped onion in a large saucepan (it must not get brown), add the rice and toast it.
Then, constantly stirring, add the hot broth little by little and cook the rice.
Get off the fire and add the grated Parmesan cheese and the butter.
Cook until creamy for a few minutes, then pour it into a large plate and let it cool.

Prepare the meat sauce

Gently fry the onion with olive oil in a pan. Add the minced meat and sauté over high heat, being careful to separate it well with a wooden spoon.
Then simmer with white wine until reduced. Add salt, pepper, bay leaves, cloves and the tomato paste melted in a little water and, when cooked, the Parmesan cheese.
Cook the peas, drain them and add them to the cold meat sauce.

Form the rice balls

Take a spoonful of rice and put it on the palm of the hand so as to form a hollow where to put a spoonful of meat sauce and, in the centre, a cube of primosale cheese.
Take another spoonful of rice and cover the meat sauce very well, being careful not to pop it out.
Shape the meat balls squeezing this compound with the hands in order to consolidate it.
Roll them into the breadcrumbs always compacting the meat ball and set aside. Proceed until the end of the ingredients.
Fry the meat balls in abundant hot oil until they are golden brown.


Besides the minced meat and peas filling, arancini can be prepared with a butter, cheese, primo sale and cooked ham filling; with a chicken sauce or with boiled spinaches and cheese.