Arancini (Rice Balls) with Marinara Sauce

Arancini (Rice Balls)

My first taste of authentic arancini, or Italian rice balls, was at Stuzzi Ristorante, a tiny restaurant in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood and just steps from where I attended culinary school. Back then, we knew the local hotspot as Bar Stuzzi, and it was a favorite for Italian small plates paired with towering glasses of crisp Prosecco. I’ll never forget my first taste of arancini, as my eyes went wide at the sight of the baseball-sized rice balls coated in breadcrumbs, deep-fried and served atop a bed of bright red marinara. They were a total triple threat: crunchy, creamy and cheesy.

If fried rice isn’t your thing, then arancini are the ultimate excuse for using up what’s left of the ol’ Uncle Ben’s in the fridge. Although many arancini recipes begin with a risotto base, it’s perfectly acceptable to skip the 20-minute stir time and start with day-old rice. Just make sure to check out my notes at the end of the recipe for a few tips that could mean the difference between perfectly rounded cheesy fried rice balls and, well, a hot mess of rice and dairy. 

Arancini (Rice Balls)

Arancini (Rice Balls)

Arancini (Rice Balls)

Arancini (Rice Balls)

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Arancini (Rice Balls) with Marinara Sauce

Yield: 8 arancini

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 5 min


2 cups cooked white rice, cooled (See Kelly's Notes)
½ cup grated Parmesan
3 eggs, separated
8 small cubes fresh mozzarella
1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
Oil, for frying
1 cup store-bought or homemade marinara sauce


Place a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and add enough vegetable oil to rise 4 inches in the pot.

Combine the rice, Parmesan and 1 egg in a medium bowl and use your hands to thoroughly combine the mixture.

Form each arancini by taking a small portion of the mixture, squeezing it firmly and stuffing one cube of mozzarella inside each ball. Repeat this process to form 8 arancini.

Whisk together the remaining 2 eggs. Dip each arancini in the eggs and then in the breadcrumbs, shaking off any excess.

Once the oil reaches 375ºF, add 2 or 3 of the breaded arancini to the pot and fry them until golden brown and cooked throughout.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the fried arancini from the pot and transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate. Immediately salt the arancini. Repeat the frying process with the remaining arancini.

Serve the arancini warm with a side of warm marinara sauce.

Kelly's Notes:

I've made arancini with many types of rice, but some varieties prove more successful than others. For example, regular old Uncle Ben's will only work if it's particularly sticky. The best rice for arancini is actually sushi rice (despite how unauthentically Italian that may be!) because it is much more glutinous so it's easy to work with.

Make sure you really squeeze the arancini together to make them as compact as possible. This will ensure the arancini hold their shape when frying.


89 Responses to “Arancini (Rice Balls) with Marinara Sauce”

  1. #
    Julie @ Table for Two — February 29, 2012 at 8:48 am

    These look SO good!! Who knew how easy it’d be to make! I love the oozing cheese coming out of the center. So delicious, Kelly!

  2. #
    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — February 29, 2012 at 9:14 am

    omg I want one! Very awesome as always

  3. #
    Kelley {mountainmamacooks} — February 29, 2012 at 9:40 am

    These look AWESOME. I’ve actually never had arancini but have always wanted to try and make them. Absolutely beautiful!!

  4. #
    Bev Weidner — February 29, 2012 at 10:06 am

    There’s a restaurant in town that serves these and I’ve always been so curious how to make them. YOU JUST SAVED MY LIFE!

  5. #
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — February 29, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Why oh why did I open this link! Now my stomach is gurgling! It wants these rice balls!

  6. #
    Cassie — February 29, 2012 at 11:18 am

    These are right up my alley. I can’t wait to try a homemade version, LOVE this Kelly!

  7. #
    Meagan @ A Zesty Bite — February 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I love risotto balls and have been wanting to make them so bad. This recipe is much simplier! THANKS!

  8. #
    Meg's Everyday Indulgence — March 1, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    These look incredible! I’ve never had rice balls before but I will be trying them very soon!

    • Kelly replied: — March 3rd, 2012 @ 10:49 am

      Thanks, Meg!

  9. #
    kamran siddiqi — March 2, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Oh, how I adore these! I went to Stuzzi last month, and it was fantastic! Now, it’s 9:25, and I’ve yet to eat breakfast, and I’m pretty sure all I’ll be thinking about are these arancini! These will be made on Sunday! :)

    • Kelly replied: — March 3rd, 2012 @ 10:49 am

      LOVE Stuzzi :) I think we know our next dinner spot!

  10. #
    Shae — March 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Mouth is watering. Making this ASAP.

    • Kelly replied: — March 3rd, 2012 @ 10:49 am

      Hi Shae! So great to hear from you!

  11. #

    Oh my gosh, drool! These look amazing!

  12. #
    Diana @ Appetite for China — March 8, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Another place that does great arancini is Luzzo’s in the East Village. Pair a plate of that with a large pizza and you’ve got one fantastic dinner. Anyway, your recipe seems like a great homemade version!

    • Kelly replied: — March 8th, 2012 @ 11:40 am

      Thanks so much for the tip, Diana!

  13. #
    Ashley — March 17, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    I found this recipe and had to try. They came out AMAZING! Thanks for the recipe it’s awesome!!!! Gonna check out some more of your recipes!

  14. #
    Donna Latrell — March 19, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Sticky rice has gluten??? Never heard that before.

    • Kelly replied: — March 19th, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

      Thanks for catching that, Donna! I meant “glutinous” :)

  15. #
    Beth — March 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Just made these – SO delicious!!!! A tip – if your rice/parmesan/egg mixture doesn’t seem to be coming together enough to form balls, stick it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and it will then be nice and sticky and easy to form the balls. I used left over white rice from Chinese takeout that was not sticky at all and this did the trick perfectly :)

    • Kelly replied: — March 21st, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

      Awesome trick, Beth! Thanks so much for sharing and I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  16. #
    Onigiri recipe — April 7, 2012 at 1:38 am

    I love eating rice balls and just stumbled upon this great recipe. Will definitely try this recipe out tonight. Thanks Kelly!

  17. #
    Ryan @ Spicy Richmond — April 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    I had Parmesan Risotto bites and my boyfriend and I were trying to think of how we could recreate them because they were so good. These sound just like them! A must try! :)

  18. #
    Kimberly — June 24, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    I just saw this recipe on Pinterest last night. Made this for dinner tonight as a side dish, wow! Such a tasty treat. Your directions were simple and easy to follow with great result. It is worth the effort to make risotto for this too, gives just that little extra flavor.

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — June 25th, 2012 @ 12:06 am

      Thanks so much for your sweet comment, Kimberly! So glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  19. #
    Hannah — September 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Yum! Tried this with left over rice peas and sweetcorn. I had no parmezan so used cheddar and only had gluten free breadcrumbs but it was delicious. I wont be throwing away left over rice again in a hurry!

  20. #
    JulieD — September 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Oh my goodness, how did I ever miss these…they look divine!!

  21. #
    Christine @ Cooking with Cakes — September 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Excellent tip on the sushi rice – When I make mine I use Arborio Rice (Trader Joes’ brand is great) and my riceballs held together perfectly!

  22. #
    Cindy Watters — November 20, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    I was intrigued by this recipe as I always have a ton of leftover rice left after meals. But I didn’t have mozzarella, bread crumbs or oil to fry in so I improvised. I used marble cheese chunks, cornflake crumbs and I baked them in the oven for 15 mins at 400 degrees. They are amazing! My kids are gobbling them down right now. Guess we’ll find out if 15 minutes at that temp was enough to cook the egg! ;). I ran out of Parmesan so on the batch in the oven right now, I added cornflake crumbs and shredded marble cheese to the ball mixture. I added a chunk of smoked sausage in the middle and then rolled it in cornflake crumbs mixed with garlic seasoning. Going to dip them in pizza sauce!

  23. #
    Mothercrone — January 12, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    So grateful to find this recipe. My brother Chris has been talking about Italian Rice Balls, which I’ve never had. Can’t wait to make this recipe for him. Thank you, Miss Kelly. ♥

  24. #
    Elaine — February 2, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Just made them…delicious….but had a hardtime molding them into ball.

  25. #
    Marsela — February 3, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    This is amazing . I cant wait to make it again .

  26. #
    Alicia — February 9, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Yep, these are truly delicious. I’ve been making these but call them Suppli al Telefono (telephone wires, after the strings of mozzarella when you pull two halves apart) – they are great party food, but only if you make them small enough and cool a bit before serving. I think they originated as a way to use up left-over risotto: That’s what I’d read anyway.

  27. #
    Jamie Carbone — March 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    I took the advice of Cindy Waters and baked them. Turned out fabulous. I too did not have bread crumbs, but I did have a loaf of pumpernickle bread in the freezer. Just threw a portion of it in the food processor with some fresh garlic, garlic salt and parsley. Great recipe. Thanks!

  28. #
    Amy — April 4, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    These look like an appetizer/fast food I ate in Rome all the time many years ago (they were called Suppli there) and I’ve been craving them for years! Cannot wait to make them!!

  29. #
    Sofia — July 24, 2013 at 6:29 am

    My grandma’s recipe doesn’t include cheess at all. We don’t mix cheese into the rice and we fill them with a thick spagetthi sauce (tomatoes, ground beef, onions, basil) plus a few peas. And we eat them with apple sauce. :D Unfortunately it is a lot of work and so we only make them once a year.. you’re recipe is a lot easier.

  30. #
    Kim — August 7, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    I made these and they were AMAZING! thank you for the recipe! :)

  31. #
    Melinda — September 9, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    A true italian making authentic arancini’s would never dream of using sushi rice. Arancini is made from risotto

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — September 10th, 2013 @ 8:25 am

      Hi Melinda! Yes, I realize this and made a note of it in the recipe. It’s just a tip I shared to help those who otherwise haven’t had luck getting the rice to stick together.

  32. #
    Beedoo — September 10, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    The brief frying step in making risotto breaks down the grain’s cell walls and is what helps make the rice sticky enough to mold.

    Those of you using any rice at all, sushi-rice or no, take it from a frequent sushi maker: Those cell walls need to be broken down with more than just water cooking unless you want to rely mostly or solely on your cheese for cohesiveness.

    If you would rather not add oil while preparing your rice, simply add vinegar to the water you simmer it in, about one tablespoon of vinegar to every cup (measured dry) of rice.

    I highly recommend using a non-grain vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar, to keep the dish’s phytase levels as low as possible. ;)

  33. #
    Mjtalio — September 21, 2013 at 8:34 am

    My mom has made these since way before I was born and now my sister and I make them. We use Carolina rice and we have tried all types of cheese in the center and believe it or not deli American cheese melts the best and the saltiness is great.

  34. #
    Lauren — September 24, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    I’m not trying to be rude but some of the things you have said (such as using uncle ben’s ready rice), are not correct for making authentic arancini. Also typically they also have meat and peas in the middle with the cheese. I’ve been making these my whole life with my family that immigrated to the US from Italy and there’s more to it.

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — September 24th, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

      Hi Lauren, I appreciate your comments, but as I noted above, I’m not claiming these to be authentically Italian. Just delicious! They’re quick and tasty, and I’m sure there are many other (more authentic) ways to make them :)

  35. #
    Jodee Weiland — September 24, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    I usually try to avoid fried foods, but these Arancini with Marinara Sauce look so delicious, I think I have to try them at least once…probably a couple more times than that! You only live once, right?

  36. #
    Giulia — October 5, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Sorry for my English but for all the negative comments on “not” authentic, for those who have an Italian nonna/auntie/hairdresser who immigrated from “Italy”, enjoy your “authentic” “Italian” arancini with your nose up high. I appreciate Kelly’s approach to give tips for yumminess using what non-Italians have in an average kitchen outside of Italy. I mean, risotto is only the method of cooking the rice, not the rice variety itself. (And to the “authentic” snobs against sushi rice, well arborio rice is from the north – why would one use northern rice in a dish that is mainly from Sicily? And anyway, arborio rice is a type of the Japonica variety, which is the sushi rice). Every person identifies with his region more, as the arancini in Sicily are way different than the “arancini” (aka suppli) in Roma. And even arancini in Sicily differ, as the ones in the northeast can be shaped like conics, rather than balls. A ciascuno il suo!

  37. #
    Karen — November 7, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    My Nonni used to make these and I was the only person she shared her recipe with; What an honor!. Our variation, in the middle she would put Swiss Cheese and a small clump of hot Capacola Ham. Also, we do not use any breadcrumbs. Roll the balls nice and tight and dip in beaten egg WHITE, then fry……So yummy !
    -Karen from Bosotn

  38. #
    Caroline — November 10, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Can you freeze them and at witch stage you can before or after cooking ?

  39. #
    kelly — November 28, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    I made these for dinner tonight and they were very tasty. I used my left over par boiled rice I made the night before. I added 2 tbsp of flour to the mixture to help hold things together. I seasoned at all layers (egg, rice mixture and bread crumbs). I deep fried them just to make this a little quicker. Other then that….I followed this as printed and they were a hit! Thank you. my left over rice will never again go to waste!!

  40. #
    Lisa W. — December 8, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    I just tried risotto rice balls for the first time today at Olive Garden and I absolutely loved them! I can’t wait to try this recipe…who cares if it’s “authentic” or not…it looks delicious. Would I be able to oven fry these?

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — December 8th, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

      Thanks, Lisa! I’ve never tried baking them in the oven, so I can’t say with certainty how they’d turn out. You’ll just want to make sure to bake them long enough so that the egg is fully cooked.

  41. #
    Ann Marie — December 19, 2013 at 8:20 am

    I grew up on Rice Balls (very Italian). We always make them with chopped meat in the middle….yummy

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — December 19th, 2013 @ 10:49 am

      Love the idea of adding chopped meat, Ann Marie!

  42. #
    Dee — December 20, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Can these be frozen before frying?

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — December 22nd, 2013 @ 9:55 am

      Hi Dee – I’ve never tried freezing them prior to frying, so I can’t say with certainty if that would work, but my guess is that it would take the rice balls much longer to cook in the oil, so the outside would get overdone, while the center may still be frozen (this is just my hunch). Hope that helps!

  43. #
    Mary Ann De Croce-Buchanan — December 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    For Christmas Eve I ‘ll add “ruff”chopped cooked shrimp into the mozzarella chunk!
    Place it on Marinara-Your recipe is perfect!Delich!

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — December 24th, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

      Love the addition of the shrimp, Mary Ann! Enjoy!

  44. #
    Janet — December 26, 2013 at 2:37 am

    Looks so good … would love to make these without wheat – what could I use as a coating instead of breadcrumbs?

  45. #
    Courtney M. — January 21, 2014 at 9:03 am

    I made these last night and baked them as Cindy suggested. They turned out very good! My husband absolutely loved them! I think next time I may broil them for a few seconds before serving, just to brown the breadcrumbs a little more. I used sushi rice as you suggested, and it worked great! Thanks for posting!

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

      Awesome! So glad to hear it, Courtney!

  46. #
    Arthur in the Garden! — January 21, 2014 at 2:09 pm


  47. #
    SeasontheRecipe — February 1, 2014 at 12:23 am

    Wow what a recipe! Gonna try it soon.

  48. #
    Steven — February 3, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Just discovered this via stumble, looks amazing! However, I did want to comment that using “sushi” rice doesn’t make it unauthentic. Italians have several short grain rice varieties that are used for risotto and rice pudding, you can find it in the store as Arborio rice.

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — February 3rd, 2014 @ 8:18 pm

      Thanks so much, Steven! Welcome to Just a Taste :)

  49. #
    Kathy — February 4, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    I add cooked hot sausage meat to my rice balls. Also, I chill the mixture before forming the balls. They seem to stick together better for me after being chilled.
    My original recipe calls for the Arancini to be served with Hollandaise sauce. We like that or Marinara sauce.

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — February 4th, 2014 @ 8:24 pm

      Love the idea of dipping them in Hollandaise, Kathy!

  50. #
    Giulia — February 21, 2014 at 11:42 am

    I am a first generation Italian and have spent much time in Italy – years actually – and visit regularly. One of the first things I get to eat strolling the streets of Rome is a suppli, cousin to the arancini. This recipe is so very similar to my favorite. The Italian way of cooking is using and adapting what you have to make a good dish so YOU are cooking the Italian way!

    I made these last night using left over Vigo yellow rice (LOL) that I had prepared with white wine and wrapped the rice around a square of bella vitano cheese. I followed your instructions for the remainder except I baked them at 400 for about 20 minutes. The last five minutes of baking I sprayed them with a mist of olive oil just to get them to brown up a bit more. This recipe will definitely be repeated again and again. Thank you.

  51. #
    Allison — February 28, 2014 at 2:20 am

    Cant wait to make these! I want to make my own gluten free breadcrumbs for this but how would I make the breadcrumbs “Italian”? haha Maybe just add Italian seasoning?

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — February 28th, 2014 @ 2:59 am

      Absolutely, Allison! I’d add some dried oregano and basil, plus any other Italian-esque spices you enjoy :)

  52. #
    Kevin — March 19, 2014 at 12:43 am

    Delicious recipe! Made these for the family tonight and everyone wanted more.

    I had some difficulty with forming the rice balls. Any tips forming the balls easily? The rice wanted to stay stuck to my hands instead of the cheese.

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — March 19th, 2014 @ 10:32 am

      Thanks, Kevin! You can try dipping your fingers in water then forming the rice balls, but it just depends on how sticky your rice is.

  53. #
    angela — March 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    If you throw the risotto balls in the freezer for about 20-30 mins before you bread them they will hold their shape while frying

  54. #
    Megan — April 2, 2014 at 12:07 am

    As someone who just got home from spending 3 months in Sicily, I am sorry but these are NOT authentic by any means. You do nooot dip them in anything annd NO mozzarella! This is a very Americanized version. Sorry!


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