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You can BAKE Arancini in the oven! These Italian rice balls are perfectly crisp on the outside, cheesy and creamy in the middle. Serve them with marinara or tomato-based sauce – great for special occasions and festive gatherings.
No compromise on texture or flavor! These baked arancini are healthier and so much easier to make – no messy oil to deal with.
The baked rice balls can sometimes get soggy and mushy, but a panko and Parmesan coating solves this problem. They’re crispy and crunchy on the outside, tender and cheesy on the inside. You can make smaller balls to serve as an appetizer or make bigger ones to serve as a meal. Regardless, they’ll disappear in no time.
Watch Baked Arancini Recipe Video
What Are Arancini?
Also known as Italian rice balls, Arancini is a popular Italian street food and traditionally made with leftover risotto. They’re stuffed with cheese and meat, then coated with bread crumbs and deep-fried (or baked) until golden brown. They’re typically served with marinara sauce.
How to Make Baked Arancini
After several experimentations with different coatings, baking times and temperatures, today’s EASY Arancini are the BEST of all! I like to think of this recipe in four steps.
Make the risotto. You’ll start by cooking onions. Then add vegetable broth, butter, tomato paste, rice, ham, and salt. Cover with the lid and simmer until the rice is cooked and then add peas. Let it cool and mix with parsley and parmesan.
Stuff the balls. The fun part! Shape the cooked risotto into a small patty and stuff mozzarella cheese in the middle. Make each patty into a ball. Squeeze them gently but tightly.
Dredge. Dunk each ball in beaten egg mixture and then toss it in the Panko and parmesan mixture. Coat them evenly and then transfer them to the baking sheet.
Bake. Spray the coated balls with cooking spray and pop them in the oven. Bake until they’re crispy and golden brown. After 6 minutes, rotate the baking sheet and bake for another 6 to 9 minutes so that they’re baked evenly.
That’s it! Remove them from the oven, and dig in!
Baked Arancini Recipe Tips
- The best rice to use for Arancini is arborio rice, which is a short-grain starchy rice. Due to its ability to absorb liquids and release starch, it’s the ideal rice for making creamy risotto.
- Wet your hands with water to shape the balls. This will prevent the risotto from sticking. Squeeze the balls TIGHTLY to keep them from falling apart and shape the balls into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking.
- Use wet hand /dry hand technique for breading. Use one hand for beaten eggs and the other for breadcrumbs and parmesan coating. This helps prevent your hands from becoming too messy and sticky.
- Spray the rice balls with cooking spray before baking. If you want your rice balls to be extra crispy and golden brown, spray them with a light coat of cooking spray before you pop them in the oven.
Italian Rice Balls Serving Suggestions
These baked Italian rice balls taste the best right after they come fresh out of the oven, when the exterior is crispy and crunchy, and the filling is creamy and cheesy. So eat them as soon as you can. They’re delicious and flavorful to be enjoyed plain, but they’re great with dipping sauces too. Try pairing them with marinara sauce, tomato sauce, or pesto or aioli.
Eat this baked arancini on its own as a snack, appetizer, or side dish. You can also shape them into bigger balls as a main dish. They are great alongside broccoli salad, green beans, and asparagus. You can also serve them with hearty proteins such as chicken breasts or steak.
How to Store and Reheat Arancini to Crispy Again
For leftover arancini, let them cool to room temperature. Place them in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. To reheat, place the arancini on a baking sheet and bake at 400˚F for about 15 minutes until warm throughout.
- To freeze arancini, place the rice balls on the baking sheet (make sure they are not touching). Pop the baking sheet in the freezer to pre-freeze for 2-3 hours. This will prevent them from sticking to each other. Once they’re pre-frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe container or a resealable freezer bag. If using a freezer bag, remove as much excess air as possible before sealing the bag to minimize freezer burn.
- To reheat, place the frozen arancini on a baking sheet and bake at 400˚F for about 20-25 minutes until warm throughout. There’s no need to thaw the frozen arancini.
More Favorite Italian Recipes
If you love these Arancini Italian rice balls, try one of these Italian recipes next:
Baked Arancini Italian Rice Balls Recipe
For the Risotto
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion finely chopped
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup finely chopped ham
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
For the Filling
- 3 oz mozzarella cheese cut into 1/4-inch cubes, you will get about 24 cubes
- 3 large eggs beaten
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- Oil spray
- Add olive oil to a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot, stir in the onion and saute for about 7 minutes or until soft.
- Add vegetable broth, butter, and tomato paste to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then add Arborio rice, ham and salt. Mix well with a wooden spoon and bring it to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the liquid (Stir from time to time to prevent price from sticking to the bottom of the pot).
- Stir in the peas and mix until combined. Remove from the heat and spread the rice mixture onto a large rimmed baking dish. Let it cool for about 5-10 minutes (so that it’s not too hot to handle). Sprinkle with parsley and parmesan. Gently mix everything together.
- Wet your hands and form rice balls. Scoop about 1/4 cup rice mixture and form it into a small patty. Place 1 mozzarella cube in the center. Shape the patty to a ball so that the cheese is enclosed in the middle and completely covered by rice. Squeeze the rice ball gently but tightly.
- Set up 2 bowls. Place the beaten eggs in one. Mix the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in the other. Use one hand to dip one rice ball into the beaten egg, shake off excess and place it into the bread crumbs. Use the other hand to roll the balls in the breadcrumbs until evenly coated. Place the coated rice ball onto the baking sheet. Repeat and coat the rest of the rice balls. Spray the coated rice balls with cooking spray.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes (rotate the baking sheet half way through) or until the balls are golden brown.
- Sprinkle the balls with salt and serve with marinara sauce.
- You can use leftover risotto and skip the step for making the risotto.
- To store: Place leftover rice balls in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- To reheat: In the unlikely event of leftovers, preheat your oven to 400˚F. Place the leftover rice balls in a single layer on the baking sheet. Pop them in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until crispy and warm throughout.