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A trip to Sicily is eye-opening in so many senses, including its scenic seaside, mountainous interior, and numerous archeological sites. But Sicilian food is also sensational, including the plethora of street foods that you find in Palermo.

Arancine – stuffed and fried rice balls – are among my favorites . They’re so named because the round shape is reminiscent of an small orange, or an arancina (the singular). However, in some parts of Sicily, particularly the eastern part of the island, they’re called by the masculine noun – arancini. That could be because in the Sicilian dialect, the word for orange is aràncìu, which is masculine, like arancino (singular of arancini). You’re also more likely to find them in a conical, not spherical shape, in the eastern part of the island.

However you call them, these delicious delicacies date back to the 10th century, when Sicily was under Arab dominion, and saffron was introduced to the island. Saffron is used to flavor the rice in this recipe.

The most common type of arancina is stuffed with a meat ragù and peas, but variations abound, including my favorite, with cheese and ham as the center. The addition of béchamel, added after the béchamel has been chilled overnight and you’re able to spoon it, makes the filling even more gooey and melted after it comes out of the fryer.

We set to work making them under the guidance of Chef Michael Sampson, at the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school, and started by wetting our hands in water to make shaping a little easier. Like the béchamel, the rice had been cooked and cooled ahead of time too.

After you’ve spread and flattened some rice on your hands, place some béchamel, a bit of cheese and bits of ham in the center, then use your fingers and hands to shape the rice into a sphere. Keep working it, and adding a bit more rice, if necessary, to close any gaps.

Then roll it gently into a combination of bread crumbs and flour.

Fry in hot oil until browned.

Wait a few minutes to bite into it so you don’t burn your mouth.

Bet you can’t eat just one!


Cuisine: Sicilian
  • cold, cooked arborio rice to which you have added some saffron, a little parmesan cheese and butter and salt to taste.
  • For the Béchamel Sauce:
  • 2½ tablespoons of butter (40 grams)
  • ⅓ cup flour (40 grams)
  • 1 cup milk (1/2 liter)
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese (50 grams)
  • To stuff the center of the arancine:
  • provola or mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
  • small bits of ham (prosciutto cotto or cooked ham)
  • bread crumbs
  • hot oil to fry the arancine
  • 00 flour (or regular flour)
  1. Prepare the cooked rice ahead of time and leave it to cool.
  2. To make the béchamel:
  3. Melt the butter and add the flour. Cook the two together a couple of minutes until sizzly, then add the milk until you get the consistency you want. Then add salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. It should be on the thick side, and it's best if you let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Spread a large spoonful of the cooked rice in the palm of your hand. It helps if you wet your hands first.
  5. Take a spoonful of the béchamel and some of the diced ham and provoke or mozzarella cheese and place in the center of the rice that you have spread out in your other hand.
  6. Using your fingers and palm, shape the rice around the filling, into a sphere, covering all the filling.
  7. Roll the shaped arancina in a mixture of half breadcrumbs and half semolina flour.
  8. Fry in oil about 190 degrees until browned on the outside.



This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. You will always win the internet for me because you actually do your plural and singular Italian words properly. (I swoon whenever you say cannolo. Say panino for me sometime.)

    I love arancini. Love them. Actually, I don’t love them when they have peas in them, so thank you for providing a ham and cheese recipe.

    My experience with Sicily is all too brief. Just a day in Taormina via cruise ship. I still hold the precious memory of sitting in the most beautiful trattoria imaginable eating a dish of pasta dressed with pistachios.

  2. Yum! This sounds so good. I’m familiar with the Roman rice balls called supplì, which I’m sure you know too. I’ll need to get to know arancini. I love the idea of that bit of béchamel mixed with the filling… creamy! And the saffron laced rice…

    Will be going to Sicily this summer. Will look out for these babies!

  3. I’ve never made my arancini with bechamel and ham as the filling–I must try that sometime. Mine always have a bit of sauce and cheese and peas. The last time I was in Italy I purchased an arancini shaper gadget–it makes 3 different shapes/sizes and it makes the process go fast!

    1. Bechamel is a lovely choice. My mom also made them with a small cube of mozzarella and a bit of prosciutto. Peas and tomato sauce at the center is mostly associated with southern Italy and Sicily. All variations are fabulous.

  4. Linda, thank you for sharing the recipe and procedure you learned at ATL, very kind. These are (unfortunately) my favorite when is Sicily, and sadly I am unable to exercise portion control. What a lovely experience it seems you had, one which I hope to as well if my producers allow me to leave them for a week.

  5. I love the idea of the béchamel in the middle! I will definitely be trying that next time I make arancini. Thanks for posting!

  6. leggendo il tuo post mi è venuta voglia di ritornare in Sicilia, ero lì qualche anno fa al festival del cous cous che si tiene ogni settembre a San Vito lo Capo, adoro questo piatto !

  7. OMGoodness! This is exactly how my mom made arancini. She was famous for them. Locally made and sold arancini had centers that were stuffed with peas and tomato meat sauce. My mother grew up in northeast Italy and never tasted “red” sauce until she was married. She deftly blended her northern palate with the southern and I ate the most amazing dishes as a result.
    Thank you!

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