Among the most imitated food and cuisine in the world, Sicilian arancini rice balls are one of the masterpieces that the regional food offers to both locals and tourists.
Rice is one of the few food ingredients that, while grown & eaten all across the world, and has managed to maintain its strong, unique identity in each and every region of the world – just think of delicious Asian rice bowls, Spanish paella and the famous Italian risotto.
Not particularly popular outside of Italy, Arancini rice balls look like big balls, just about the size of an orange (the Italian word arancia actually means “orange”) – whose core is filled with a savory food mixture.
Common fillings of the rice balls include: fresh meat sauce with peas; prosciutto & cheeses such as provola, mozzarella or pecorino; eggplant and some tomatoes. The outer layer of rice ball is then covered with a crunch crust and the complete rice ball is then fried in oil.
Origin of Arancini
Also known as Sartù, Arancina, Supplì or called rice frittata, the Arancino has been a definite part of traditional Southern Italian food and cuisine for many centuries.
In the Campania, the arancini rice balls were first introduced into the Kingdom of Naples by the Aragones people who called them, simply, “crunchy rice balls”. It seems that the word Arancina was first invented in Sicily, where many different regions and provinces claim to be the homeland of the delicious dish.
There’re even those who sustain that delicious Milan’s signature food and cuisine dish called ‘Saffron Risotto’ is nothing more than a poorly executed arancini big rice balls that fell apart on a plate – the popular Milanese, of course, don’t agree.
The delicious Arancino comes mainly in two main variants: the first one is perfectly round in its shape filled with a ragu mixture of meat, mozzarella & peas; the second is known as al burro (“with butter”) & has a longer, pear-like shape & is generally filled with fresh diced mozzarella & prosciutto and the grated cheese.
Tradition and Innovation of Sicilian Arancini
Sicilian Arancini is a very common, known and loved food and cuisine all around Sicily, you can find several versions of Sicilian arancini rice balls in almost every corner of the region.
The traditional arancini is usually cooked with boiled rice flavored with special saffron and stuffed either with organic caciocavallo, a typical regional cheese, and our “ragù” – which is, minced meat with fresh tomato, onion, celery, red wine & peas – or with butter, some mozzarella cheese & ham.
Locals are also popular for their culinary creativity, so now you can also enjoy a multiplicity of vegetarian rice ball versions, such as Parmigiana (fried eggplants, tomato & parmesan), as well as gourmet and its fish versions (like pistachio and scamorza; sardines & wild fennel).
What are the Different Variants of Arancini?
In Roman food and cuisine, supplì are similar to arancini but are normally filled with cheese, although older traditional versions of the dish supplì have chicken giblets or mincemeat.
They’re usually served with a fresh tomato sauce, and as well as with no tomato sauce (supplì in bianco). This version called ‘pall’e riso’ may have originated from Monzù chefs.
Queen Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples at that time in the late 1800s century, was sent cooks from France by her younger sister, named Marie Antoinette. In the Bourbon court, a fusion or mixture of rich French food and cuisine and the “poor” food (cucina povera) from Naples was actually born.
The food dishes that were created were prepared by highly trained professional cooks, referred to as Monzù, who was a Neapolitan corruption of “monsieur”.
Recipe: Italian Arancini Rice Balls With Minced Pork