You see that title and you think, what are arancini rice balls and why would I want to make them? They are tomato-y rice surrounding a little pocket of cheesy goodness and you want to make them because they are AMAZING (don’t they look amazing?). These are an appetizer from Italy and I love them. A lot. If I have them, I usually make them my main course because I always eat so many of them.
So I decided to be adventurous and try to make them, modified to be healthy of course. First thing I did was I switched the usual arborrio rice for brown rice. This makes it so that it’s a whole grain and better for you. Second, I baked them instead of frying them which is how they are usually prepared. This decreases the fat content. Even with these healthy switches, they still came out amazing and delicious. What’s better is that each ball is less than 100 calories! Awesome, right?
These are a little spicy, which my boyfriend and I really like. If you’re not a fan, add less of the crushed red pepper. Generally, the amounts listed for spices are flexible and you can add more or less based on your preference.
Arancini rice balls are a really great way to use up left over rice. I made some brown rice the night before to go with some indian food and made a little extra to try out with these guys. Most of the ingredients are probably things you have in your pantry right now making them super easy to make.
4 cups cooked brown rice (chill the rice if you want to make these all in one day)
1/3 cup (plus some for sprinkling) asiago (or parmesan) cheese, grated
3 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1-1/2 tsp dried thyme
1-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (use 1/4 to 1/2 tsp for a less spicy dish)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, part skim milk, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/4 cup gorgonzola grumbles (optional, but they really make it yummy!)
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs (You can use regular bread crumbs if you don’t have/don’t know what panko is. If you want to use panko, you can find it at Trader Joe’s.)
Active time: 20 minutes
Inactive time: 30 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: Makes 16-2″ balls. 1 serving = 1 ball (but I had four for dinner with some broccoli)
Combine the cooked rice, beaten eggs, asiago cheese, and tomato paste and mix until uniform. Add the dried thyme and crushed red pepper and mix again. If your rice was already cold then you can go right on to the next step. If not, chill it until it is cold. I left mine overnight.
Now comes the tricky part. Making the balls. I will admit that I failed spectacularly at the several times before getting it down. I’m here to share you what I learned. First, let’s get everything set up. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a cooking sheet with PAM or something like it (I found an olive oil spray. It makes me happy). Next, get out a large spoon and moisten your hands. Keeping your hands moist throughout the ball forming process will ensure the rice won’t stick to you. Now cup one hand as if holding water and spoon a dollop (about 1/8 of a cup or 2 tbsp) of the rice mixture into your palm. Flatten it out with your other hand to make a cup sort of thing. Now place a mozzarella cube and some gorgonzola crumbles (if using) in the middle. Spoon another dollop of rice mixture on top. With your free hand try to smoosh the rice mixture you added on top to cover the cheese. Then bring your hands together to form the ball shape and transfer it to the other hand. This way you can check to make sure the cheese isn’t leaking out either side. In the end, you want to have a ball of rice without any cheese showing through. The balls will be fragile so don’t check it too much or they will fall apart. Place the ball on the prepared cookie sheet. Do this about 16 times.
This next part is fun, but be careful still. Take the panko or breadcrumbs and pour them into a shallow bowl or a plate. Then roll one of your balls around in it to coat it. Be gentle with the balls. I had a couple fall apart in the panko and that was sad. All that work to create a ball gone to waste! Once coated sufficiently, place back on the cookie sheet. Do this with all of the balls.
Once you’re done coating the balls in crumbs, place them in the oven for 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, flip them over CAREFULLY so that they brown evenly. Devour immediately and don’t forget to go for second helpings!
Recipe makes 16 servings (1 serving = 1 ball)
Amount Per Serving:
Calories - 99.5
Total Fat - 3 g
Saturated Fat - 1.5 g
Cholesterol - 28 mg
Sodium - 159 mg
Potassium - 114 mg
Total Carbohydrate - 14 g
Dietary Fiber - 1.3 g
Sugars - 0.8 g
Protein - 4.2 g