Transforming Leftover Risotto Into Arancini di Riso

photo courtesy of Dinner in Venice blog

photo courtesy of Dinner in Venice blog

I wonder if you’re feeling latke’ed out yet?  With the holiday combo of Thanksgiving and Chanukah converging, I definitely had my fill of potatoes and latkes of all sorts. But that’s not to say that we’re finished celebrating yet, right?

 I’m crazy for this recipe for Alessandra Rovati’s Arancini di Riso. These fried rice balls are the perfect way to use up that leftover risotto you worked so hard to cook properly. And these Arancini (little oranges, named for the southern Italian oranges where the dish originated in the 10th century) are versatile. Vegetarians may want to fill them with a melange of gently simmered peas and mushrooms or cubes of mozzarella, while meat lovers can gently spoon beef or lamb ragu into the indentation before coating them with bread crumbs and frying them to a golden crisp.


Consider them perfect for Chanukah and any other time you’re looking to fry up a special treat. My advice:  plan ahead to be SURE to have enough leftover risotto to make these sizzling irresistible arancini.

Rovati preparing for presentation and tasting at Chabad of Westport

Rovati preparing for presentation and tasting at Chabad of Westport

About Alessandra Rovati: Rovati is an Italian food writer, lecturer and recipe developer with a deep love for her hometown, Venice. She currently lives with her husband and two children in NYC. Her articles and recipes have been published widely including in The New York Times, The Huffington Post and The Forward. You may read more about  “Cucina Italiana” and Italian Jewish culinary history and inspiration, along with great recipes, by checking out her blog, Dinner in Venice.

Thanks Alessandra, for sharing this recipe here.


Arancini di Riso (Fried Rice Balls)

approximately 15 balls

Arancini, translated as “little oranges” are fried rice balls coated with breadcrumbs. Said to have originated in 10th century Sicily, they are now popular (in different variations) all over Italy. They can be filled with beef or lamb ragu (meat sauce), and/or stewed peas, or mozzarella, mushrooms, or eggplant. The rice can also be flavored with saffron. Street food at its Italian best!


  • 1 pound originario or padano rice or Arborio
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • (optional) a handful of raisins soaked in warm water, drained
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano or grana padano, or mix of parm and romano
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 medium or large white or yellow onion, very finely chopped (I use my mezzaluna knife)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups green peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup fontina or white cheddar, diced
  • 1 or 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or mix oil and butter
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • Plain bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 bottle olive oil or peanut oil


  1. This recipe is a great way to recycle leftover risotto!
  2. Otherwise, boil the rice in little more than a quart of salted water, so that the water is completely absorbed during the cooking.
  3. Brew the saffron stems in a couple of tablespoons of hot water, and incorporate it into the rice adding 2 or 3 (depending on size) slightly beaten egg yolks. If you don’t like saffron, you can flavor the rice with a little tomato sauce.
  4. Add the butter and grated cheese (skip this step if using leftover risotto, which already contains them), and the drained raisins if using.
  5. Combine well, transfer to a shallow tray or dish and place in the fridge, covered, for about 1 hour.
  6. Heat some oil and butter in a skillet or saucepan; add the finely chopped onion and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add the peas and the wine. Once the wine evaporates, add about a ladleful of vegetable broth or water. If liked, you can also add tomato paste diluted in a couple of tbsp water.
  8. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, or until ready but not too mushy.
  9. Assemble and Fry
  10. Keep a bowl of cold water by your side.
  11. Wet hands slightly, and pick up a handful of rice mixture with your weaker hand. Cup your hand and press the rice creating a concave container for the filling. With the other hand, place a tablespoon of the peas, and a cube or two of cheese, and place it into the rice you are holding., then take little more rice and press it on top of the filling, closing the arancino.
  12. Roll in your hands until you get a nice round or pear- like shape. Proceed like this with the rest of the rice and filling, arranging the arancini on a parchment lined tray.
  13. Slightly beat the remaining two eggs. Dip the arancini in the eggs and dredge them in bread crumbs.
  14. Fry in abundant oil (best to use a smaller diameter pot with taller sides so they will be half submerged) until golden and crispy, about 5 or 6 minutes.Lower them gently into the oil using a slotted spoon.
  15. When they are ready, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, and drain them on a triple layer of paper towel.
  16. Serve hot or warm.


This recipe is Dairy


    • It was both interesting and inspiring to hear Alessandra share her Cucina Italiana with friends in my community. Try this recipe and click a photo!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>