Making Italian Rice Balls at home is simple with this easy no-fry recipe. Try making Air Fryer Arancini, or oven baked Risotto Balls for a delicious appetizer or main dish, with no deep frying and minimal oil.
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Making Italian Rice Balls from leftover risotto has got to be one of my favourite things.
Is there anything better than crisp, delicious Risotto Balls with a center of molten cheese? Well, yes - the fact that you can make them without any deep frying involved.
Listen, I love legit, deep-fried arancini as much as the next guy, but handling hot oil scares me. And if you could make Air Fryer Arancini or Baked Risotto Balls that are every bit as good and happen to be a little bit healthier, why wouldn't you?!
There's nothing I love more than repurposing leftovers - in fact I usually make extra risotto just so I can whip up a batch of these.
You'll find specific quantities of everything you need to make arancini in the printable recipe card at the end of this post. Here's a brief overview:
- Leftover risotto --> I'm using our Instant Pot Brown Rice Risotto here.
- Eggs --> To bind the breadcrumbs to the outside.
- Breadcrumbs --> Regular or panko are both fine.
- Parmesan --> Bringing some zing.
- Dried oregano --> Flavour squad.
- Salt and pepper --> As one does.
- Mozzarella --> These l'il cubes of melty goodness are optional, but delicious.
For the fastest and crispiest arancini, I use my Air Fryer. Whether you're going to air fry these or bake them, I recommend using a Misto or similar to spray your rice balls with a thin coating of oil.
How to Make Italian Rice Balls Without Frying
We're going to cover two methods for making these super crispy arancini without frying.
No matter which method you choose, you'll need to start with making the risotto balls. I always start by setting up the breadcrumb mixture in one bowl, and whisking the eggs in another.
Then scoop a couple of tablespoons of cold risotto into your hands, and form it into a ball. If you're adding cubes of cheese to the center (which I urge you to do), press them into the middle and then shape the ball around the cheese.
Carefully lower the rice balls into the beaten egg mixture, one at a time. Lift them out, allowing excess egg to drain off, and then place in the breadcrumb mixture.
I like to use one hand to toss breadcrumbs over the top of the ball to ensure it's fully coated.
Repeat this process until all of your risotto balls are formed and coated, and ready to cook.
Air Fryer Arancini
I love making Italian Rice Balls in the Air Fryer because it's fast, easy, and they turn out perfectly crispy every time.
All you need to do is arrange the arancini in a single layer in the basket of your air fryer, and lightly spray or brush them with a little olive oil. Air Fry for five minutes, then carefully turn the risotto balls over.
Give them another light spray of olive oil, then Air Fry for 4-5 minutes more until golden and crispy.
Oven Baked Italian Rice Balls
Oven baked Risotto Balls are easy as can be! All you need to do is follow the above instructions for shaping and coating the arancini, then arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Give them a light spray with olive oil, and bake until golden - about 20-25 minutes.
Tips for the Best Italian Risotto Balls
Use Cold Risotto
When making arancini you'll always get the best results with leftover risotto. It's easier to handle, and the balls hold their shape well. If you're making risotto specifically to make rice balls with, be sure to chill it for at least an hour before using.
Keep 'em Small
When it comes to arancini, smaller is in fact better. I aim for a couple of tablespoons of rice per ball, which ends up being around the size of a golf ball once shaped. They're easier to handle, cook faster, and hold together best when small.
Change up the Flavors
Try switching up the cheese in the centre (sharp cheddar, Parmesan, and asiago are all delish) or adding your favourite seasonings to the risotto.
Add a dipping sauce
You bet they can! You can prepare your arancini ahead of time and leave them on a tray the fridge until you're ready to cook. Allow them to come to room temperature while pre-heating your oven or air fryer.
Yep! Simply shape and coat your risotto balls and then place in the freezer in a single layer until frozen. Then, transfer to an air-tight container or freezer bag where you can store in the freezer for 3-6 months.
I do recommend that you allow your frozen arancini to fully thaw before baking or air frying.
It is simple to reheat risotto balls! To reheat in the oven, place your arancini on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. You can also reheat risotto balls in the Air Fryer for about 5 minutes. Or, simply pop them into the microwave for a minute or two.
If you're having a hard time shaping your leftover risotto into arancini balls, your risotto may be too wet. In this case, add some breadcrumbs to the risotto, one tablespoon at a time, until they are holding their shape well.
Italian Rice Balls Recipe
- Air Fryer
- 2 cups leftover risotto chilled
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 Tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper
- small cubes of cheese such as mozzarella, sharp cheddar, or parmesan.
- olive oil spray
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the breadcrumbs, dried oregano, and Parmesan cheese. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.1 ½ cups breadcrumbs, ¼ teaspoon dried oregano, 2 Tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
- In another bowl, whisk the eggs together.2 eggs
- Scoop some cold risotto into your hand, and form it into a ball. I like to make fairly small arancini as they hold together better, so using about 2 Tablespoons of risotto per ball. If you would like, press a cube of cheese into the center of the rice, and form the ball around it.2 cups leftover risotto, small cubes of cheese
- Place the risotto ball into the beaten egg, and ensure it is well coated. Use a fork to carefully lift out of the egg, allowing excess egg to drain off.
- Place the risotto ball into the breadcrumbs, and carefully roll it around or toss the breadcrumbs on top to ensure it is well-coated.
- Transfer the coated risotto ball to a plate, and repeat with remaining risotto.
Air Fryer Arancini
- Heat your Air Fryer at 200°C / 400°F for a couple of minutes.
- Place the risotto balls into the basket of your Air Fryer, and spray them lightly with olive oil spray.
- Air Fry for 5 minutes, then carefully turn them over, spray again, and Air Fry for an additional 3-4 minutes until crisp and brown.
Oven Baked Risotto Balls
- Preheat your oven to 200°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Arrange the risotto balls on the baking sheet, and spray lightly with olive oil spray.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until crisp and brown.
- Nutrition values are an estimate only
- This recipe works best with risotto that was made the day before and has been chilled overnight in the fridge. If you're making risotto specifically to make arancini, be sure it has chilled for at least one hour in the fridge.
- I prefer the crunch of panko bread crumbs, but regular breadcrumbs are fine too. Or, you can do a mix of panko and regular.
- If your risotto is too wet and doesn't hold together well, add a bit of the breadcrumb mixture to the risotto, one tablespoon at a time, until the risotto holds together well.
- It's really important to use oil spray rather than brushing the risotto balls so you don't brush the breadcrumbs off.
- Leftover arancini can be reheated for 5 minutes in the Air Fryer, or quickly reheated in the microwave.