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Cheesy Rice Balls Recipe (Arancini)

Cheesy Rice Balls (Italian Arancini) Family Approved! @natashaskitchen

Children and adults love these cheesy rice balls. They are an Italian classic known as Arancini. These rice balls are such a treat fresh off the stove, stuffed with glorious gooey cheese. This recipe is similar in flavor to one of the most popular recipes on my site; the Creamy Chicken and Rice (a one-pot-meal) – if you loved that dish, you’ll enjoy these cheesy rice balls!

Ingredients for Cheesy Rice Balls (Arancini):

2 Tbsp olive oil + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 med onion (about 1 cup), finely diced (click for video tutorial)
1 cup ham, finely diced (about 3 oz)
2 cups medium grain rice such as Jasmine rice (un-rinsed)
1 cup dry white wine such as Chardonnay
5 cups hot reduced sodium chicken broth/stock
1 tsp salt (we used sea salt)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into 24 (1/2-inch) cubes

Cheesy Rice Balls (Italian Arancini) Family Approved! @natashaskitchen

For Breading/ Frying:

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, beaten with a fork
1 1/2 cups dry Italian Bread crumbs
Oil for frying (vegetable, canola, or grapeseed oil)

Cheesy Rice Balls-2

How to Make Cheesy Rice Balls:

1. Using a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot with tight fitting lid, over medium/high heat, add 2 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter. When hot, stir in diced onion and sautee until soft and golden (4-5 min). Add finely diced ham and cook another 2 minutes or until meat is golden. Add rice and stir until coated with oil.

Cheesy Rice Balls-6

2. Pour in 1 cup white wine and cook until most of it has evaporated (2 min). Add 5 cups hot chicken broth and 1 tsp salt then cover and cook until liquid has been absorbed by the rice (about 15 min).  Stir in the peas in, then cover with a tight fitting lid and finish cooking (2 min). Rice should be soft and the liquid mostly absorbed. Spread rice mixture onto a large rimmed baking dish to cool.

Cheesy Rice Balls-7

3. Once rice is cooled, stir in 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley and 1 cup parmesan cheese. Form rice balls using a heaping ice cream scoop for each. Stuff each rice ball with a cube of mozzarella cheese and form a tight ball with the rice mixture to enclose the cheese.

Cheesy Rice Balls-8

4. Set up 3 shallow bowls, the first one to have 1 cup flour, the second with 3 beaten eggs, the third with 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs. Dredge each rice ball in flour, shaking off the excess, then dip one-by-one in the beaten egg allowing excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Finally, roll the balls in breadcrumbs until evenly coated. It’s best to roll and bread all of the rice balls before beginning frying since the frying is quick.

Cheesy Rice Balls-9

5. Add an inch of vegetable oil into a deep skillet or pot over medium heat (a pot is nice to reduce splatter). Once the oil is hot, add the breaded rice balls in batches without crowding the pot and cook about 3 minutes total per batch, turning to get all sides golden brown. Transfer to paper towels and serve warm with marinara, or with ranch (as my son prefers), or sans the dip and just enjoy ’em! :).

Cheesy Rice Balls-3

Cheesy Rice Balls (Italian Arancini) Family Approved! @natashaskitchen

Credits: This recipe was adapted from one of my favorite Italian cooks: Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and is based on her “Arancini di Riso” (Rice Balls) from her newest book, Lidia’s Favorite Recipes. Thank you Lidia for introducing me to this wonderful treat!

Cheesy Rice Balls (Arancini)

4.82 from 11 votes
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Cheesy Rice Balls (Italian Arancini) Family Approved! @natashaskitchen
Children and adults love these cheesy rice balls. They're such a treat fresh off the stove stuffed with glorious gooey cheese.
Author: Natasha of NatashasKitchen.com
Skill Level: Medium
Cost to Make: $18-$22
Servings: 24 rice balls

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 med onion finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup ham finely diced (about 3 oz)
  • 2 cups medium grain rice such as Jasmine rice un-rinsed
  • 1 cup dry white wine such as Chardonnay
  • 5 cups hot reduced sodium chicken broth/stock
  • 1 tsp salt we used sea salt
  • 1 cup frozen peas thawed
  • 1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese cut into 24 (1/2-inch) cubes

For Breading/ Frying:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs beaten with a fork
  • 1 1/2 cups dry Italian Bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying vegetable, canola, or grapeseed oil

Instructions

  1. Using a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot with tight fitting lid, over medium/high heat, add 2 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter. When hot, stir in diced onion and sautee until soft and golden (4-5 min). Add finely diced ham and cook another 2 min or until golden. Add rice and stir to coat with oil.
  2. Pour in 1 cup white wine and cook until mostly evaporated (2 min). Add 5 cups hot low sodium chicken broth and 1 tsp salt then cover and cook until liquid has been absorbed by the rice (about 15 min). Stir in the peas in, then cover with a tight fitting lid and finish cooking (2 min). Rice should be soft and the liquid mostly absorbed. Spread rice mixture onto a large rimmed baking dish to cool.
  3. Once rice is cooled, stir in 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley and 1 cup parmesan cheese. Form rice balls using a heaping ice cream scoop for each. Stuff each rice ball with a cube of mozzarella cheese and form a tight ball with the rice mixture to enclose the cheese.
  4. Set up 3 shallow bowls, the first one to have 1 cup flour, the second with 3 beaten eggs, the third with 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs. Dredge each rice ball in flour, shaking off the excess, then dip one-by-one in the beaten egg allowing excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Finally, roll balls in breadcrumbs until evenly coated. It's best to roll and bread all of the rice balls before beginning frying since the frying is quick.
  5. Add an inch of vegetable oil into a deep skillet or pot over medium heat (a pot is nice to reduce splatter). Once oil is hot, add the breaded rice balls in batches without crowding the pot and cook about 3 min total per batch, turning to get all sides golden brown. Transfer to paper towels and serve warm with marinara, or with ranch (as my son prefers), or sans the dip and just enjoy 'em!

Recipe Notes

Credits: recipe adapted from Lidia Matticchio Bastianich's "Arancini di Riso" (Rice Balls) from her newest book Lidia's Favorite Recipes

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Cheesy Rice Balls (Italian Arancini) Family Approved! @natashaskitchen
♥ FAVORITE THINGS ♥
Shown in this post: (nope, no one paid us to write this; just stuff we love):
* The Le Creuset French Ovens are made to last a lifetime. They’re lovely too.
* My rectangular glass baker gets a ton of use and it lasts and lasts and lasts…
* These Joseph Joseph utensils sit next to the stove and they get used. ALOT!

natashaskitchen

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Natasha, the blogger behind Natasha's Kitchen (since 2009). My husband and I run this blog together and share only our best, family approved recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

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Read comments/reviewsAdd comment/review

  • Negin
    June 24, 2018

    Hi Natasha, thanks for great recipe and also attractive pics 😀
    good job… Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      June 25, 2018

      You’re welcome! I’m so happy you enjoyed it Reply

  • Henni
    March 24, 2018

    Hi Natasha, I just finished making shrimp and lobster risotto and made extra for leftovers. I would love to make the rice balls with the leftovers. Do you think I would need to add anything to the rice?
    I was just thinking of adding the cheese and doing the 3 step coating. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      March 25, 2018

      Hi Henni, it depends on the consistency of your risotto. I would suggest starting with risotto that is completely cooled so it thickens up which will make it easier to form the balls. If it’s still to soft at room temperature, try refrigerating the mixture first. It sounds like a great idea! 🙂 Reply

  • Ksusha. A
    March 15, 2018

    First time these fell apart and were not that amazing but then my husband asked for them again and I made a few changes and they turned out perfect!
    I used 4 cups of broth instead of 5 and cooked for at least 20 mins (otherwise it was super wet)
    Used bigger cheese chunks (cus thats what its all about right??)
    And cut down on the peas (they kind of ruin the taste unless you’re really into peas)
    The taste is pretty simple, but the fact that they were so precious round, crunchy and cheesy deserves a 5 star 🖒 And I know my family will ask for them again. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      March 15, 2018

      I’m so glad you liked them!! I wonder if it might be the variety of rice used that it required less water. And bigger cheese chunks is always a good idea! 🙂 Reply

  • February 15, 2018

    hello natasha
    thank you for recipe. what’s substitue for wine?
    I am muslem so i can’t drink wine. thank you before Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      February 15, 2018

      Hi Zahra, we love the flavor it adds to this dish, but you could omit the wine and just use a little more chicken broth instead. Reply

  • Jenny
    January 27, 2018

    Could these be made in an air fryer?
    If so, how would I go about it Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 28, 2018

      Hi Jenny, I honestly have zero experience with an air fryer so I won’t be much help with that.

      Maybe someone else has tried? Please let us know! 🙂  Reply

  • Diane
    December 18, 2017

    Hello. I have rice balls in the freezer. Do I defrost them first before I put them in the oil? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      December 18, 2017

      Hi Diane, I would defrost them in the refrigerator first to ensure to heat through properly without browning too much on the outside before the inside heats properly. Let me know how that goes! I have had others ask about freezing these rice balls 🙂  Reply

  • Audrey
    December 13, 2017

    Can I make these a day in advance? If so, how should I go about reheating them?

    Thanks Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      December 14, 2017

      Hi Audrey, I think these taste best fresh, but if you were going to reheat them, you could either do it on a skillet until heated through or in the oven and bake until hot in the center. Either method will give you the desirable crispy exterior and creamy melty center. I hope you love the recipe! Reply

  • Liz
    June 25, 2017

    These totally rock! Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      June 26, 2017

      I’m glad you like them Liz! 🙂 Reply

  • Maria
    June 6, 2017

    Can I use barley or quinoa instead of rice. I am Weight Watchers and rice is not point savvy…
    Thanks Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      June 6, 2017

      Hi Maria, I haven’t tested it with those substitutions so It’s difficult to guess if it would work well or if they would stay together properly. You might try googling quinoa or barley arancini and see if anyone else has tried it. Sorry I can’t be more helpful! Reply

  • Inna
    April 27, 2017

    Hi Natasha,

    The first time I made these, I was out of ham and only had like 2.5 cups of Chicken stock.. so I had to improvise. But today I had everything on hand, they turned out really good. We all loved them! 😊 thank you for all your amazing recipes. Thanks to you I became a better cook. I sometimes wish you published your own cookbook. Maybe it’s something you can do in the future 😉 Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      April 27, 2017

      You’re welcome Inna! Thanks for the WONDERFUL compliments and for sharing your review! 😀 Reply

  • Krisztina
    April 3, 2017

    I have tried it without the ham (as I do not eat meat) and it turned out to be fantastic! Everybody loved it! So did I! Thanks for the recipe! Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      April 4, 2017

      You’re welcome! I’m glad to hear everyone enjoys the recipe! Reply

  • Olga
    October 20, 2016

    Hi Natasha. I tried doing this but didn’t work out,seemed like it was watery. I like that u put pictures,that’s very helpful. Is their a chance u making a video of this one? I liked how Laura in the kitchen.com she did its,very similarly to yours. Some times I don’t know why but video’s help me better. Thanks,for your wonderful recipes. God bless you and your beautiful family. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      October 20, 2016

      Hi Olga, I haven’t seen Laura’s version but if the mixture seemed too wet, it’s likely because the rice was turned off before all the water was absorbed. Also, did you possibly use a different kind of rice? Various types of rice require slightly different cooking times and water measurements. Thank you for your thoughtful comment! 🙂 God bless you also! Reply

  • Luda
    September 20, 2016

    Hi, Natasha,
    Do you think it’s ok to make the balls the night before and then bread and fry the next day?
    Thank you Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 20, 2016

      Luda, that should work fine. Let me know how they turn out 😀. Reply

  • linda portlock
    June 2, 2016

    Will it change the taste much if I don’t use the wine and what else do I use if I don’t put in the wine Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      June 2, 2016

      Linda, it is a vital ingredient. If you need to omit it, use a splash of fresh lemon juice or to taste. Let me know what you end up doing. Reply

  • Viktoriya
    April 9, 2016

    Hi Natasha! What would you recommend subbing in for peas? Thanks ahead! Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      April 9, 2016

      You could try cooked diced carrots or you could just leave them out. Reply

  • Donna
    March 6, 2016

    HI want to make the rcengalls for a large Easter party. Can I make them freeze them and then heat in the oven? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      March 6, 2016

      To be honest, I haven’t tried freezing them so I’m not sure. I think it’s worth trying but I just haven’t tried it to feel confident saying yes for a large Easter party! Sorry I’m not much help with that question. I looked over the reviews and no one else has said anything about freezing them. I found a little bit of discussion about freezing them here, but it’s not super helpful: http://www.chowhound.com/post/arancini-frozen-566113 Reply

  • Shawnda
    November 23, 2015

    Do you use uncooked rice or are you pre cooking it? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      November 23, 2015

      I start with dry, uncooked rice and cook it in the pot according to the recipe. Reply

  • desiree
    September 22, 2015

    I was wondering if you have tried this with quinoa. If so, does it come out the same? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 22, 2015

      I haven’t tried with quinoa so I couldn’t really say if it works or not. I haven’t seen it done anywhere either. If you test it, let me know how it goes! 🙂 Reply

  • Jennifer
    April 14, 2015

    Hi Natasha,

    I want to apologize in advance in case this is a stupid question, but I’m still an inexperienced cook. In your ingredients you listed chicken broth, but in your picture you have a jar of “Better than Bouillon.” Do you use the Better than Bouillon to make your chicken broth or do you add it to chicken broth, such as the Swanson chicken broth (because that’s usually what I think of when I see chicken broth.) I appreciate your help, I plan on making this for my family tomorrow. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      April 14, 2015

      I use the Better than Bouillon to make my own chicken broth – it’s more economical and easier to store one little can in the fridge for us :). We buy it at Costco. The Swanson chicken broth will give you the same result; it’s the same thing. It’s actually a great question! I hope you love the recipe! Reply

      • Jennifer
        April 17, 2015

        Thanks for your quick reply! I made this the next day and it was a hit, especially with my little brother. For those posters trying to substitute ham for another meat, I substituted smoked turkey breast (my mom doesn’t eat pork.) I don’t think it added that much to the dish and I don’t think anyone would have missed it if it wasn’t there. I think the ham would have added a nicer taste to it. However, even without it these were really delicious. Thanks for another great recipe! Reply

        • Natasha
          natashaskitchen
          April 18, 2015

          You’re welcome and I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe. I agree this would be great even without the ham if you want keen on eating ham. I’m glad that you and yours enjoyed it! Reply

  • Akilah
    February 27, 2015

    Hi, can this be baked instead of frying… Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      February 27, 2015

      To be honest, I haven’t tried baking them and I imagine they would taste best fried, but I have seen others online try baking them. I just can’t vouch for the results since I haven’t tried it myself. Reply

  • tania
    February 24, 2015

    I made these yesterday. They are delicious!!! My kids loved them, so did my husband. I had one too many… :). Even my 15 month old kept on saying “yum” the whole time I was giving him pieces. The frying process what messy. I had to spring clean my kitchen after I was done. But overall another successful recipe! Love your site, thanks!:)) Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      February 24, 2015

      I’m so happy to hear your kids loved them :). That’s very sweet. My kitchen ended up a little (more than a little) messy too. I need to figure out a cleaner method since I’m not a fan of doing dishes 😉 Reply

  • February 6, 2015

    I am salivating right now and reminiscing about my trip to Italy a few months ago. We had these same rice balls from a hole in the wall pizza place in Naples and they were freshly fried and SO GOOD!

    Maybe I’ll get motivated enough to make them. I’m glad I came across your blog 🙂 Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      February 6, 2015

      I’m happy you’re here too! 🙂 Those are usually the best places (hole-in-the-wall’s) to find the best local food. Freshly fried is the best way to eat these. Mmmm. Reply

  • Inna
    January 28, 2015

    Hi Natasha! I have a question. Which dutch oven do you use? Which one would you recommend and what size? I’ve been wanting to buy one for awhile Reply

  • Olga
    January 28, 2015

    Will they taste just as good even if they are not eaten right away? I’m thinking about making them for a get together at a friend’s place but I would have to make them a couple hours in advance to bring them with me so they won’t fresh off the stove. Let me know what you think! Thanks! Olga Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 28, 2015

      Olga, of course they are best fresh, but to reheat them in your friend’s house, place them in the oven just enough for the cheese to melt. Hope this helps :). Reply

  • Dasha
    January 27, 2015

    So..these look delicious and very very popable (mouth popable) ^-^

    With that being said, I would like to ask about substitutions. We don’t consume alcohol whether cooked in or otherwise. Is the white wine an absolute (not the vodka haha)? Or can we replace it with something else?
    Also, regarding ham…no pork household..any viable substitutions?
    I don’t want the taste to be too different. Although how would I know what the original tastes like, right?

    Let me know if anyone has any advice! Thanks!
    Dasha Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 27, 2015

      Hi Dasha, you could omit the wine and just use a little more broth instead. As far as the ham goes, that can be omitted as well. You can add a different kind of meat or just leave it out altogether. season to taste, since omitting the wine will remove some of the flavor as well. Reply

    • Roxanne
      September 22, 2015

      trying this with smoked chicken!! Reply

    • Diana
      January 27, 2016

      If you go to Russian store ask for a pork free kolbasa. It tastes just like the regular one and when my hubby’s boss who is muslim comes over i make oliv’e with that one and you dont notice the difference in taste whatsoever. I also dont use wine in our household and chicken broth substitute is the best. Reply

      • Natasha
        natashaskitchen
        January 27, 2016

        Thank you for sharing that! I didn’t know they had such a thing. Our store is smaller so I’ll have to see. 🙂 Reply

  • January 26, 2015

    I absolutely LOVE arancini. Thanks for posting! Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 26, 2015

      Youre so welcome 🙂 Reply

  • January 24, 2015

    I love this! They look absolutely delicious, oh that gooey cheese and crispy crust! Yum. Definitely trying them out soon. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 24, 2015

      The first time I saw a picture of these – they were totally calling my name for the same reasons 🙂 Reply

  • Yana
    January 24, 2015

    Is there a reason you use unrinsed rice? I’m intrigued since I take about 5 long minutes washing out the “dirt” & such till the water runs clear. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 24, 2015

      If you rinse the rice, you also rinse of much of the starch that helps to make this rice stickier and more risotto-like. I usually rinse my rice too, but in this recipe and usually in risottos, you don’t want to rinse it. Reply

  • Zina P
    January 24, 2015

    Oh….am I going to make this ASAP! I had this once in a restaurant and it is the best. Thank you so much for posting the recipe and clearly demonstrating the process. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 24, 2015

      You are welcome Zina :), let me know how they turn out. Reply

  • Alla
    January 24, 2015

    Yum! Thank you for the recipe! Definitely will have to try. I wonder if they would freeze well? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 24, 2015

      I have not tried freezing them. But they make a fairly large batch, so it would be worth an experiment. We made them and gave them away to my sisters while they were still fresh.  Reply

  • Mariam
    January 24, 2015

    Omg looks sooo yummy!!!! Natasha what else can I use instead of ham? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 24, 2015

      You can leave it out or replace it with something like prosciutto. Reply

  • January 24, 2015

    Wow these look amazing! Need to try this recipe 🙂 Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 24, 2015

      Thank you so much Leanna 🙂 Reply

  • malisha
    January 24, 2015

    Hi Natasha. Thanks for this recipe.I’ve tried this before but with out the ham and peas of course and they are cheesy delicious!! Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 24, 2015

      The ham adds some nice flavor and the peas are good for conscience-sake ;). Reply

  • veronika gudimenko
    January 23, 2015

    These look so good! Hope to make them soon! Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 23, 2015

      Thank you Veronika. I hope you enjoy them! 🙂 Reply

  • January 23, 2015

    I love these, Natasha! I’ll admit that I’ve always used leftover mushroom risotto and stuffed cheese in the middle, rolled in flour, egg and panko. I’m going to try these this week. How wonderful they look. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 23, 2015

      Mmm that sounds wonderful! Do you have the mushroom risotto posted on your blog? Reply

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