Arancini or Stuffed Rice Balls, Love Nanny
Today is a very special day. Today I share with you the most coveted recipe in my family. We call them “ronginis” but they are arancini, or stuffed rice balls.
My grandmother, Nancy Zito (we called her Nanny), was the only one who made them and she only made them for special occasions or holidays.
I had her show me how to do them when she was 90 in 2002. It was the pre-digital picture/video days, so I took pictures of her hands with a film camera – old school! Haha! She was not very patient with me while I captured each step of how she made the balls – it disrupted her flow of doing them just right, according to her. Luckily I didn’t let her deter my purpose and of course they were their usual “perfect” as you can see at the end of the following video – before there were “selfies”, I actually took one of me and Nanny the day she taught me which she was not thrilled with posing for obviously!
There are 3 stages but they’re easy to do. Note: I usually don’t favor particular brands of anything but Nanny insisted on Carolina white rice.
• 1 cup Carolina white rice
• 6 tbsp butter
• 2 tbsp grated Romano or Parmigiano cheese
• 2 tbsp onion, chopped
• 1/2 lb ground chopped pork
• 3 oz tomato paste
• 1 oz raisins
• 2 tbsp sugar
• 3 oz mozzarella
• 2 large eggs, beaten
• 2 cups plain bread crumbs
• 2 cups vegetable oil
1) Make one cup of white rice according to package direction, using a tiny bit more water – you want the rice thick. Drain any remaining water. Blend in 4 tbsp butter and grated cheese. Let sit until room temperature, then fold eggs into the rice and mix well. Set aside.
2) Chop mozzarella into small pieces. Set aside.
3) For the filling, melt 2 tbsp. butter in a skillet and add onions. When they’re translucent, add the ground pork and brown. Mix in tomato paste, sugar, and raisins. Set aside.
4) Create an “assembly line”: rice, bread crumbs, meat filling, and mozzarella with a dish for the finished rice balls. You’ll be creating about 2” rice balls.
5) Sprinkle one hand with bread crumbs, then spread rice in your palm. Spoon about 1/2 tsp meat filling, then a couple bits of mozzarella to the center of the rice and close to create a ball – add more rice if necessary. Roll in bread crumbs and place to the side. It usually takes doing a couple to get the hang of it. Keep going until you’re out of rice.
6) Heat the oil in a deeper sauce pot. Using a small basket or slotted spoon, carefully place in the rice balls, leaving enough room to scoop them out. Remove from the oil when they become a golden brown. Place on paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Deb WalshDecember 16, 2019 at 2:56p
My mother married an Italian, and she made “rice balls” according to her mother-in-law’s (Nanny’s) recipe. I remember I was the one to assemble the balls, as I was the youngest and had the smallest hands! I distinctly remember the raisins in them. She said they were supposed to have pignoli nuts in them as well, but my mom couldn’t find “Italian” ingredients in Wisconsin in the 60’s. Also, I am sure she had no idea what risotto or Carolina rice (in your recipe) was and used just plain, cold cooked rice. No deep frying for her – oil was expensive then – so she pan-fried them in an inch or so of oil. I remember them being about the size of a small Hostess snowball, and we had two for a main meal. (Or maybe they just looked this big to me, as I was only about 10 years old.) Thank you for posting this. I really thought I was dreaming it all up based on so many typical raisinless arancini recipes.
AnnetteJanuary 7, 2020 at 2:56p
You just gave me such JOY! That’s a fabulous memory. Yeah, my Nanny swore by Carolina rice. And I never saw anywhere the use of raisins except with her. I think there’s a Sicilian version with peas and pignolis. Have you tried to make them yet? Keep me posted! 🙂
RosemarieApril 15, 2020 at 2:56p
yes the sicilian version my family put peas and chop meat no pork I will be making this over the weekend thank you
AnnetteApril 17, 2020 at 2:56p
I love it! Let me know how they turn out!
melissa PDecember 18, 2015 at 2:56p
Ill be making these – Thanks for sharing Annette! I pintrested this!
KitchAnnette™December 18, 2015 at 2:56p
Thanks! Let me know how they come out!
Deborah Kay WalshJanuary 7, 2020 at 2:56p
You are so kind to reply. No, I haven’t made them yet, but I will let you know when I do!
AnnetteJanuary 8, 2020 at 2:56p
Oh yes, please do – with pictures too! The assembly of the balls becomes the “trick” – my grandmother did them differently than I do – different hands, she was righty, I’m lefty – but one thing we learned the hard way – if you assemble and then refrigerate to fry the next day, they tend to break. I think the fridge dries them out a bit. Keep me posted! 🙂
FlorenceJuly 20, 2016 at 2:56p
I’m quite pleased with the inoomratifn in this one. TY!
AnnetteJanuary 8, 2020 at 2:56p
Janet FerraraDecember 17, 2015 at 2:56p
I am Eileen Hahn’s cousin Janet I love your posts .My daughter Sandi also makes these,she learned from her Italian mother in law who comes from Sicily.The only difference from yours is that instead of raisins they put a pea in each, and you are so right -there is nothing like these rice balls. Yum. Keep the recipes coming.A nd don’t forget the Oscars are coming!!!
KitchAnnette™December 17, 2015 at 2:56p
Thanks Janet. I remember meeting you long ago. Those Sicilian style are more savory with no raisins or sugar usually but another yummy variety! As for the Oscars, for me the holiday season starts on Thanksgiving and ends on Oscar night! Can’t wait to hear the nominations in January! Happy Holidays to you!
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