Recycled | Arancini {Risotto Balls}

I love recycling in the kitchen. Sometimes, you get more satisfaction cooking a dish from yesterday’s leftovers than from the original dish itself. Maybe it’s the gratification of improving upon something already good. Maybe it’s the practice of thrift. Or maybe it’s because recycled dishes…

Recycled | Arancini {Risotto Balls}

I love recycling in the kitchen. Sometimes, you get more satisfaction cooking a dish from yesterday’s leftovers than from the original dish itself. Maybe it’s the gratification of improving upon something already good. Maybe it’s the practice of thrift. Or maybe it’s because recycled dishes are deliciously unfussy.

Fried Risotto Balls, better known as Arancini, are the epitome of recycled foods. So much so, that when cooking risotto, the temptation is there to make a double batch, just so you can make Arancini the day after. I’m sure you’ll agree, there’s nothing better than biting into a freshly deep fried orb of still-creamy risotto, the mozzarella revealing itself in long, stringy stretches.

As good as it is, the one thing that prevents me from making Arancini more often is the desire to conserve cooking oil. Whether you use the deep fryer or a deep-sided pan, using a sizable amount of oil is inevitable. When I made my Leek and Yellow Squash Risotto the other day, I decided that I was going to try both frying and baking, to see if I could be happy with the healthier, less wasteful, version.

Both methods worked, and I was surprised at how well the baked version held its shape; how nice to know there is a healthier way to enjoy Arancini! But can I be honest? It’s not the same! You just don’t get the same puffy crunch and you certainly don’t get the same flavor that only comes from oil, especially when the oil “ages” after the very first fry. Eew, I know, but c’mon, you know I’m right.

I’ll include directions for both methods, just the same. Which way do you prefer?

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  • 2 cups prepared risotto (see Leek & Yellow Squash Risotto recipe below), refrigerated overnight
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup Parmegiano-Regianno cheese, grated
  • Ciliegine (cherry-size fresh mozzarella balls)
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • extra Parmegiano-Regianno cheese, grated, for garnish

Combine the risotto and egg in a bowl. Combine panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese in another deep sided bowl. Using a standard size ice cream scoop, form a ball of the risotto mixture. Insert a mozzarella ball in the center and form the ball around it, using your hands. Drop the risotto ball in the breadcrumb mixture and coat well. Repeat until all the risotto balls are formed. Allow to sit in the refrigerator uncovered to dry out while you prep your oven or preheat the oil.

To bake:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place prepared risotto balls on a silpat or parchment paper covered baking tray. Spray with cooking spray. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the arancini are golden brown.

To fry:

Preheat canola or peanut oil in a deep fryer or a small sauce pan (at least two inches worth of oil for latter) to 360°F. Gently drop the arancini in the oil one or two at a time, gently rotating to ensure even browning, about 4-6 minutes. When golden brown, remove from oil and allow to drain/rest on paper towels.

Serve with marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Leek & Yellow Squash Risotto

  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 2 yellow squash, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock, heated
  • Parmegiano-Regianno cheese, grated
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a deep-sided saute or sauce pan, saute the leek and yellow squash in butter until the leeks are wilted. Add the rice, stirring until the rice is coated and translucent. Add the wine, and cook until it is evaporated. Stir in 1 cup of chicken stock and allow to simmer. When the stock is absorbed, add another cup, and continue incorporating the stock until the rice is fully cooked and the stock is all used, about 30 minutes. Stir in the cheese and season to taste.






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  1. Allie

    I’ve only had arancini from Trader Joe’s and although they are delicious, they are frozen which means they would be even tastier fresh! I always felt like they’d be tricky to make but I think I could do this recipe!

  2. fooddreamer

    These look so perfect, you did a fabulous job on them. I love arancini.

  3. Island Vittles

    It’s not arancini if it’s not fried! that said, I know a lot of people will appreciate the baked option, but I say live a little (and just don’t eat them too often…) ;) Theresa

  4. Parsley Sage

    I just scared my husband with the ‘ooooooh’ i let loose after landing on your page. These puppies look absolutely fantastic! I’ve actually never made them myself – or had them ever for that matter – but they look like something I’d love. Perhaps I should just go straight with the baking since I have no awesome-deep-fried basis for comparison…

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Gourmantine

    These are wonderful arancini! I’m old fashioned when it comes to them, so for me, frying is the only way to go! :)
    p.s. maybe they are “in the air”, but I always start making them when I get the Sicily blues and want to have nice memory filled bite! :)

  6. norma823

    I like the baked version. This is one of my favorite bites. I hate when they make them to look like large meatballs. I made Risotto last night and I have a bit left over…going to try…thanks

  7. Jean

    I couldn’t wait come here and visit but I was getting ready to go out when you posted. So glad I’m here now. :-)

    Your arancini are just so, so perfect! Gosh, I wouldn’t mind taking a bite of one thought it’s barely past 8 am!

    I’m with you on the frying. I almost never fry anything at home because 1) it’s messy (I don’t have a deep fryer) and 2) I never know what to do with the used oil. Making the fried calamari recently was a huge exception–I think these arancini would justify another one. Thanks for sharing your frying vs baking experiment with us!

    Have a great weekend!

  8. Monet

    Ryan and I discovered these on our honeymoon in Europe. He fell in love with them, and he tried to eat at least one every day we were there. I need to surprise him with these! As the weekend approaches, may your days be full of love and laughter. Thank you for sharing your self, your food and your heart with me week after week. Hugs and love from Austin!

  9. Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet }

    Liren – Arancini is one of my favorite delights! Love that you experimented with two versions. Nice to know that you can bake versus frying for a “healthier version”. Have a brilliant weekend!!! :-)

  10. Trish

    I’ve never made arancini so I’m delighted to see the two different versions. I guess it will depend on my mood how I prepare it but love having the baked version as an option. Beautiful photos as usual, Liren. Your website is looking more and more gorgeous!

  11. Lana

    LOL! I just wrote a post on arancini, leftover risotto, and perfectionism:) I love the little rice balls even more than risotto (I have not perfected the “art” of making it and it’s driving me nuts!)
    I don’t deep fry a lot, so once in a while, I close my eyes and sacrifice the oil to the gods of good taste:)
    Great post and lovely, lovely photos!

  12. Jun Belen

    I love recycling, too. It’s the Mr. Frugality (or Mr. Tipid!) in my that derives pleasure in recycling, which actually drives Dennis crazy sometimes. I just don’t like wasting anything in the kitchen like my mom. Lovely dish, Liren. Have a great weekend!

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