Arancini al Ragù

Arancini are named after "Little Oranges" and they are a specialty of Sicily. Our version is the traditional way using Saffron Risotto. 

Ever since I was a little girl, these have been my favorite treat. We used to stop at Gino's Focacceria in Brooklyn when they were there on 18th Avenue. This recipe is filled with a Ragù sauce, pease and mozzarella - such an added treat just like they made it.

Arancini al Ragù

(Rice Balls)

Makes 12-20 Arancini depending on size of Arancini


For the risotto:
Large pinch of saffron threads
1 cup white wine
7 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
5 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons thyme
4 cups risotto rice (vialone nano, arborio, carnaroli)
½ cup Parmesan, grated
½ cup Pecorino, grated
1 teaspoon sea salt

For the Ragù sauce:
1 lb ground beef
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
14 oz Italian peeled tomatoes (Carmelina San Marzano or Cento), diced
¾ peas
1 tablespoon butter

For the filling:
¾ cup mozzarella or fontina, cut into ¼ cubes

For frying:
1 ¼ cups flour
2 cups dried bread crumbs sea salt
1 teaspoon sea salt
oil for deep frying, canola recommended 

Arancini (ph Brooklyn Roots NYC)


Making the risotto:
Leave the saffron to soak in the wine while you prepare the risotto.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes until softened but not browned. Heat the stock to a simmer in another saucepan.

Add the thyme (leaves only) and rice to the onion and cook, stirring for 1 minute to seal the rice. Add the wine and saffron and stir until wine is all absorbed. Add several ladles of hot stock, stirring continuously to allow the rice to cook evenly. Keep enough stock to just cover the rice. Continue cooking for 20 minutes, or until rice is creamy.

Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan and Pecorino, then spread out onto a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to cool in the refrigerator overnight.

Making the Ragù sauce: 
In a saucepan, add the olive oil and saute the onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the carrots and celery and cook until soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the ground meat and heat on high. Cooking and breaking up the meat until it is browned. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, and then lower heat to medium/low, and continue to stir occasionally. Let cook for about 1 hour.

Once the sauce is almost done, add in the peas, butter and a pinch of salt. Remove from heat and let cool.

Molding the Arancini: 
Roll a small amount of risotto into a small orange size ball. Press a hole in the middle with your thumb and expand the inside of the risotto ball.

Spoon 2 teaspoons of the Ragù sauce into the risotto ball and top with 1-2 mozzarella cubes. Take a small portion of rice and flatten into a small dish shape. Place the flattened risotto over the opening of the risotto ball to cover and close up the filling in the center.

Keep rolling and forming into a perfectly round ball (use water to help dip your fingers in to help make the process less sticky). We recommend molding all the bottom portions first, then adding the filling, then adding the tops and forming.

Breading the Arancini: 
Place the flour and water in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Whisk until it has a smooth and creamy consistency. Dip each ball in the flour mixture and then roll each ball in the bread crumbs, pressing down to coat well.

Frying the Arancini: 
Heat enough oil in a deep frying pan to fully cover arancini. Heat the oil to 350°F, or until a piece of bread fried golden brown in 15 seconds when dropped in the oil. Deep-fry the arancini in batches, without crowding, for 4 minutes or until golden brown.

Drain on paper towels and leave for a couple of minutes before eating. Serve hot or at room temperature.

(We recommend Vialone or other semi-fine rice, which helps to keep the rice together).