Rice Balls (Arancini)
This recipe makes 36 rice balls.
Originally, when I planned to write down this recipe, I was concerned that it was for too many, or too large a batch of rice balls. No one makes just one rice ball, but I thought that the recipe we use in the store was too large.
After I started going through the recipe I realized two things:
All the ingredients are scalable. Everything from the rice to sauce. If you want half as much, just use half the ingredients.
If you’re making rice balls for Christmas, or some other party, you still need a few dozen of them at a time. For example, my mother said she’s only ever made a full, 36 piece, batch of arancini.
So, make as much as you like. The technique is going to be the same.
Part One: Sauce (filling)
The sauce we make is a mix of ground beef and peas. There are thousands of different recipes for rice ball filling. There are no rules here just guidelines. I bet every town in Sicily has their own style of arancini sauce.
The options for rice ball sauce are limitless, but here’s the way we do it.
This is the easiest sauce in the world to make. Every step is easy. And remember, it’s supposed to be a thick sauce, so it cooks fast. There’s not a lot of extra liquid that will take time to cook down. When the sauce is done you will be able to scoop it like ice cream onto a big spoon.
Filling / Sauce
3 lbs ground beef
28 oz tomato puree
6 oz tomato paste
1½ tbsp salt
½ tbsp pepper
1 pound frozen peas
½ pint Chopped onions
Put the beef into a pot and turn the fire up high. Use a wooden spoon to break up and stir the beef as it cooks. You have to do this the whole time the beef is browning. When it’s done (not pink anymore) it should also be broken up into small bits.
Drain the beef with a colander (pasta strainer).
Put the meat back into same the pan. Along with the onions, the tomato paste, puree and salt & pepper. Mix the sauce together really well, and let it cook for about 10 minutes.
Cook the sauce on low heat so it doesn’t burn.
When the sauce is hot all the way through, add the peas and keep on cooking until the peas are warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes more.
Did I say to stir the peas into the sauce? You knew that part, right?
Pour the sauce into a strainer and let it drain for 30 minutes. You want it dry because too much oil or liquid in the rice will keep the rice balls from sealing together nicely.
Part Two: Rice
Our recipe uses regular long grain white rice.
Rice to water ratio is 2:1
12 cups rice
24 cups water
3 tbsp salt
Our rice is a two to one ratio. Therefore, you can realistically make as little or as much as you want.
Put the rice into the cold water and add the salt. Stir the rice and then put a cover on the pot. Bring the water to a boil. Stir the rice often, or the edges will cook faster than the middle.
Once the water starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook the rice for 15 minutes. Your rice should be slightly al dente. You’re going to let it steam for a bit afterwards.
When the 15 minutes is up, take the pot off the burner, cover it with saran wrap and let it set for 20 minutes.
Finish Making the Rice
1 ½ lbs grated pecorino cheese
3 – 4 eggs
1 lb of butter
If you change the amount of rice, just change these ingredients by same amount.
Leave the rice in the pot while you add the butter. Push the butter sticks right into the rice.
After the butter has started to melt dump all the rice into the biggest bowl you have. Put the cheese into the bowl and knead it into the rice until it’s fully mixed.
Don’t let the rice get cold. You don’t have to burn your fingers, but mix the rice while it’s still hot. All the ingredients will mix together much nicer.
Knead the rice well. The rice grains should start to smash and break up while you knead them. Remember, you’re going to be shaping the rice by hand. It won’t work with loose fluffy rice grains. The rice will not stick together very well unless the grains are broken up a little.
After the cheese and butter are mixed in, add the eggs and knead the rice thoroughly again.
When you can form a small ball rice in your hands that stays together nicely you’re done kneading.
Part Three: Form the Rice Balls
To assemble rice balls, you need 4 eggs’ whites, some water to keep your hands clean, and a bowl with 2 quarts of unseasoned breadcrumbs.
This part isn’t that hard to do. It doesn’t even require a lot of finesse, but it’s much easier to learn if you can see someone do it rather than just read the directions. Therefore, I really recommend watching the video for this part more than just reading the directions. Check out our Youtube channel to see the video.
4 eggs’ whites
Bowl of clean water
2 quarts of unseasoned breadcrumbs
The water is there so you can keep your hands soft and clean. If they get sticky just rinse your hands.
Grab a handful of rice. Roll it into a ball. Then while you hold the ball in one hand make a well in it with your other hand. Put a big spoonful of sauce into that well.
There’s a little trick to adding the rest of the rice and covering the filling. You’ve still got the rice ball in your hand right? With your other hand grab a small handful of rice and smash it flat against the back of your hand with the rice ball in it. The video will make this clear.
From here it’s pretty simple. Put the rice you’ve just flattened out over the sauce, and roll the rice ball around in your hands until you smooth out the bumpy spots and make a nice sphere. If you need more rice to help fill in rough or thin spot go ahead and add it.
I would recommend finishing all the rice balls through this step first before you move on to the breading.
It’s a smart idea to keep the rice balls that you’ve just made covered with saran wrap while you’re finishing the rest. If you take too long, they can start to dry out.
For each rice ball pick up a pinch of egg whites and rub the egg around the outside of the rice ball.
From there, put the rice ball into the bowl with the bread crumbs. Cover the ball thoroughly, and then rub the bread crumbs firmly onto the rice ball.
Part Four: Frying
It’s faster if you do the frying at the same time as you’re doing the breading. Bread one ball, drop it in the oil. Bread another, turn the first one in the oil, and add the second. Repeat until they’re all done. Cooking them one at a time takes forever. Don’t torture yourself like that.
The rice balls have to be completely submerged in the oil while they’re frying.
Deep sauce pots work the best at home. The more rice balls you can cook at once the faster it will go. If you only have small pots, use more than one at a time.
Fill the pot with enough oil to completely cover the rice balls while they cook. Keep the fire low, so the oil doesn’t get to hot.
Turn each one periodically (once a minute or so). When the outside is solid and golden brown they’re done. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for one to cook. To test if a rice ball is done, take one out of the oil and give it a good tap with your fingernail. If it is solid it’s done.