Gluten-Free Arancini di Riso – Italy’s favourite street-food snack!

Arancini di Riso (aka fried risotto balls) are well-known for their crispy exterior, crunchy rice centre and magical gooey cheese filling at its core.

Where do they come from?

Considered Italy’s favourite fried snack, these rice balls – fondly known as “little oranges” in Italian for their similar shape and colour, come from Sicily. As with many Italian dishes, each region has their own version. Actually, it is mind-boggling how many different fillings and shapes there are! Here are a few worth mentioning:

The Sicilians shaped their arancini conical. This shape is meant to look like Mount Etna with its filling looking like the lava. The rice is made simply using arborio risotto rice and filled with a ragù (meat & tomato-based sauce) and mozzarella or caciocavallo cheese pieces.

Whereas in Rome, they are oblong or round-shaped and only have a mozzarella & light tomato sauce filling (aka suppli or arancini di riso al telefono due to the stringy cheese appearing like a telephone line!). Sicilians refuse to accept suppli as an arancini, even though they are so similar. Just don’t utter the word “suppli” while visiting Sicily!

How do you serve arancini balls?

Going up towards the northern regions, arancini is mainly prepared from leftover risotto Milanese (saffron risotto), mozzarella (and sometimes ham). I like this version the best as it is practical using up any leftover risotto, has an uncomplicated filling and can be made bite-size. Perfect as a party food served with a robust tomato dipping sauce such as a homemade arrabbiata sauce (recipe included). Packing a few leftover arancini in your children’s lunch boxes will be the talk of the playground!

Please only use arborio rice as regular rice does not have the same sticking power when forming the balls.

a round platter with gluten-free arancinis place around a bowl of Italian tomato sauce

Gluten-Free Arancini Di Riso (Fried Risotto Balls)

Arancini Di Riso balls are well-known for their crispy exterior, crunchy rice centre and magical gooey cheese filling at its core. Using gluten-free flour and breadcrumbs makes this Italian appetiser a gluten-free possibility.
The recipe also includes how to make a basic risotto from scratch and a homemade Arrabbiata tomato sauce.
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Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Risotto Cooking Time 35 mins
Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Course Appetizer, Kids' Snacks, Party Food
Cuisine Italian
Servings 20 balls

Ingredients
  

HOMEMADE BASIC RISOTTO

  • 500 g arborio rice
  • 2 tbsp store-bought or homemade vegetable stock paste 
  • 1 litre water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 200 ml dry white wine (or substitute 200ml vegetable stock)
  • 1 pinch of saffron or turmeric powder (optional)
  • 30 g Parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt & white pepper, to taste

GLUTEN-FREE ARANCINI Di RISO

    Filling

    • 700 g cold risotto
    • 1 egg
    • 20 bocconcini balls (baby mozzarella balls) 
    • 2 slices of prosciutto or smoked ham cut in small pieces (optional)
    • 10 basil leaves, torn into small pieces

    Coating

    Extras

    • 1 lemon, cut into wedges for serving
    • 1 litre sunflower or vegetable oil for deep frying

    HOMEMADE ARRABBIATA SAUCE

    • 200 ml Passata (strained tomato puree sauce)
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 sprig of basil, left whole
    • 2 stems of parsley, left whole
    • 1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
    • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped finely
    • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
    • 1 tsp salt
    • ½ tsp sugar
    • cracked pepper, to taste

    Instructions
     

    HOMEMADE BASIC RISOTTO

    • Mix the vegetable stock with the hot water in a medium pot and leave to simmer over a low heat, while preparing the risotto in another pot.
    • Crumble the saffron strands into a small bowl and place an ice cube on top to draw out the colour. Set aside.
      soaking saffron with ice cold water in a small bowl
    • In a deep pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.
    • Add the onions and fry gently for 5 minutes.
    • Add the garlic and fry for 3 minutes.
    • Add the rice and gently fry for 2 minutes.
    • Add the wine and stir for 2 minutes.
    • Add the saffron and water. Substitute a pinch of turmeric powder which gives the risotto a soft yellow colour.
    • Increase the heat to medium-high.
    • Add a soup ladle full of the vegetable stock and stir constantly. Once evaporated, continue adding the stock one ladle full at a time until the rice is cooked. The rice should taste soft and smooth inside with a slight bite on the outside. If it tastes “chalky” continue cooking and adding more stock.
    • As this risotto is used for the arancini filling, there should be no stock floating around the risotto as in regular risotto dishes.
    • Take it off the heat and add the grated Parmesan cheese.
    • Allow to cool down before chilling it.

    GLUTEN-FREE ARANCINI Di RISO

      Assembling

      • Mix the cold risotto and egg together.
      • Roll the risotto mixture into mini balls using wet hands
      • Poke your finger into the centre to form a small hole.
      • Push a bocconcini ball, torn basil leaves and some optional ham into the hole.
      • Cover the hole with some risotto and roll it into a ball.
      • Set aside on a tray and continue with the rest.
      • Start crumbing the risotto balls first by rolling them in some gluten-free plain flour, followed by the beaten eggs and lastly in the gluten-free breadcrumbs.

      Deep-frying

      • Using a suitable pan to deep-fry, heat the oil to 180°C/350°F or until a piece of bread turns golden and crisp.
      • Add a few at a time to the hot oil and fry until they are golden and floating. Don't overcrowd the pan or the arancini will not fry well.
      • Drain on a wire rack and blot any excess oil with some kitchen paper towels.
      • Serve with fresh basil leaves, arrabbiata tomato sauce and lemon wedges.

      HOMEMADE ARRABBIATA SAUCE

      • Fry the garlic, basil & parsley stems gently in some olive oil for 3 minutes.
      • Add the tomato passata sauce & chopped fresh herbs. Simmer for 10 minutes.
      • Add the chilli flakes, salt, pepper & sugar. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.
      • Remove the herb stems before serving.

      Video

      Notes

      • Keeps for 3 days chilled
      • All three recipes are suitable to freeze once cooked
       
      Keyword gluten-free arancini, gluten-free arrabbiata sauce, gluten-free risotto, gluten-free risotto balls
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