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Arancine: Saffron Rice Balls Recipe

Arancine: Saffron Rice Balls Recipe

Saffron Rice Balls is a much-loved delicacy of Sicily. It’s actually ragu-filled rice balls scented with saffron. Here's how to make this lip-smacking snack.


  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1⁄2 small yellow onions, minced
  • 1⁄2 small carrots, minced
  • 1⁄2 stalk celery, minced
  • 3 oz. ground beef
  • 3 oz. ground pork
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 1 1⁄2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1⁄4 tsp. crushed saffron
  • 2 tbsp. grated parmesan
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • Canola oil, for frying


  1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat one tablespoonful of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots, and cook, stirring regularly until all become softened-should take about ten minutes. 
  2. Add pork and beef and cook, stirring regularly until it becomes browned-should take about 10-12 minutes. 
  3. Stir in tomato paste and sauce, turn down the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring once in a while until mixture thickens-this should take about 45-50 minutes. Place meat mixture in a bowl and allow to cool. Once cool, refrigerate until chilled. 
  4. In a 2-qt. saucepan, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add red onion and cook, often stirring until it softens-should take about 10 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of water and saffron. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, and remove from the heat. Allow sitting for 20 minutes. 
  5. Remove the lid, stir in salt, pepper, and Parmesan. Spread the rice out on a plate to allow it cool. In a shallow bowl, whisk together eggs, flour, and 1/2 cup of water until smooth. Set aside. In another bowl, place bread crumbs and set aside. 
  6. Now to assemble, place one heaping tablespoon of rice in your palm and flatten to form a disc. Place one teaspoon of chilled meat filling at the center of rice disk and form rice around the filling to completely encase it. Now form a ball by pressing gently. 
  7. Roll the ball of rice in batter and then in breadcrumbs until evenly coated with both. Place ball in parchment paper. Do the same for the remaining rice, meat filling, batter, and breadcrumbs. Put in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to make it firm. 
  8. In a 6-qt Dutch oven, pour oil to a depth of 2 inches and heat over medium-high heat until you see a reading of 360 degrees on the deep-fry thermometer. Divide the rice balls into batches, fry each batch of rice balls in oil until heated through and turned golden-should take about three minutes. Transfer rice to paper towels using a slotted spoon. Allow cooling for five minutes.
  9. Serve and enjoy.

Source: Todd Coleman