Arancini (Risotto Balls)

Like most parents, I am on a perpetual quest to find food my children will eat. Not just food out of a tin or bags from the freezer, but food which is healthy and I feel I would like to eat. I cannot tell you how many recipes I have slaved over only to find my kids baulked at the result. Absolutely crushing!

Thankfully risotto was a hit with the kids from the get go. I got used to doubling up the recipe and freezing pots of it for quick meals during the week. Then I remembered arancini balls! I don’t know why it took me so long to move onto these but I am so glad I did. Now, when I make risotto I try to make these as well. I like to have these in the freezer so I can pull a few out and heat them up during the week and serve them with a basic tomato sauce or as I prefer, with a tomato and sweet potato sauce – an Anabel Karmel recipe we tried early on and which has stuck with me ever since. It reminds me of tomato mascarpone sauce, which I love, but uses sweet potato. My kids don’t know the difference which means I can sneak in a few more vegetables! 

You can easily make the risotto specifically for this recipe. Although, if you are going through the effort, I think it is best to double up and have one serving of freshly made risotto for dinner and use the leftover to make this.

The amount this makes depends on how much risotto you had to start with, how much filling you use (if any) and how large you wish to make them. I find with one batch of risotto, I can get enough for 2-3 meals for three kids.

I must also caveat, mine never seem to maintain the lovely round shape they start out with. Once they end up in the pan they start to go flat and I end up with cubes and pyramids of arancini! Unless you are more skilled then I am (entirely possible this is just my issues!), I have read that most places keep the shape by deep-frying the arancini – something I try to avoid when it is for the kids.

  • 1 batch of basic risotto, chilled
  • Dried bread crumbs (you can now get gluten-free)
  • 1 Egg (or 3 Tbsp aquafaba if you do not eat eggs)
  • Plain Flour
  • Water
  • Oil for frying


You can simply miss out a filling or go with mozzarella. In which case I would cube it into small chunks, around which you can form the rice ball. Alternatively, here are a few other options:

  • Sautéed mushrooms, finely chopped
  • Sautéed chopped spinach with garlic
  • Leftover Bolognese
  • Pesto

You will need three shallow edged bowls for the crumb, the flour and the beaten egg.

Prepare your filling and keep this nearby. Take a scoop of risotto (I use a 1/3 cup measure) into wet hands (this makes it easier to handle) and form a round ball. Using your thumb, press into the middle to form a hole into which you will place your filling. Fill the hole with your choice of filling and cover with some more risotto, the exact amount will really depend on the size of your ball. Taking care none of the filling is seeping out and then set this down on a plate or tray. Repeat until you have used up all the risotto.

Take up a risotto ball and roll this in the flour, shaking off any excess. Now place this into the beaten egg, let any extra drain off and then transfer to the bread crumbs and make sure it is well covered. Set aside. Do this for all the risotto balls.
Heat the oil into a wide, shallow pan. You want a little more oil than just covering the bottom of the pan. Gently fry a few of the balls at a time, turning to get them evenly browned on all sides. Place on a paper towel to drain whilst you cook the remainder. These can either be served immediately or you can freeze them for later use.

When serving, you can serve them alone or with a tomato/ragu sauce (I have used Anabel Karmel’s recipe for years, which was always a great success – recipe below, although now I omit the cheese or replace it with a nut/nutritional yeast mix).

Frozen arancini should be defrosted and can be heated in the oven at 180 for 15-20 minutes.

Anabel Karmel’s Tomato and Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 100 g Onion, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, chopped
  • 225 g Sweet Potato, peeled and chopped
  • 125 g Carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 400 g tin chopped Tomatoes
  • 200 ml Vegetable Stock
  • 5 Basil leaves, torn
  • 50 g Cheddar Cheese, grated

Using a small saucepan, saute the onion in the oil for a few minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and saute for an additional minute. Add the sweet potato, carrot, tinned tomatoes and vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Check the vegetables are soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes then blend together with the cheese and serve.

Can be frozen.

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