Arancini Rice Balls with Pesto Ranch Sauce

A quick and easy recipe perfect to be served as a snack, quick bite, or a complete meal on its own, these Arancini Rice Balls are kicked up a notch with fantastic seasonings and stuffed with smoked mozzarella. And the homemade pesto ranch dipping sauce gives it an added boost of creaminess.

arancini Sicilian rice balls

What is Arancini?

Arancini originated in the 10th century from a food culture born of Sicilian roots with an Arabian influence. In English, Arancini means “little orange,” derived mainly because of its shape and color once fried. Traditionally, they are made by taking a palm-sized amount of risotto (rice cooked in broth and other ingredients), stuffing it with mozzetta, rolling it into a small ball, coating it in breadcrumbs, deep-frying, and serving them with a side of tomato/marinara sauce.

overhead shot of arancini balls

Although I kept my rice balls recipe fairly simple by adding just a few herbs, this recipe is quite versatile. Stuffing your rice balls with other veggies (like peas) and even meat can quickly turn this into a completely new dish.

Ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:

arancini ingredients
  • I have used both long grain and Jasmin rice in this recipe. This texture is fluffy and tender yet combines well with the other ingredients to ensure your rice balls don’t fall apart. The rice is combined with chicken stock and parmesan, giving it that creamy “risotto” texture along with eggs.
  • The seasonings are a huge part of this recipe. Because the ingredient list is simple, this is where the recipe shines. Combining paprika, sage, basil flakes, oregano, ground nutmeg, ground ginger, salt, and black pepper, along with fresh cilantro, adds tons of flavor and a nice fragrant aroma.
  • The core of this recipe, literally and figuratively — is the smoked mozzarella. I chose smoked mozzarella because of its texture and flavor. It has a soft, silky, and natural milky flavor that will have you eating these rice balls non-stop. The added smokiness seals the deal.
  • The rice balls are rolled in a mixture of Italian breadcrumbs, Panko breadcrumbs, and parmesan cheese. You get a slight crunch and a hint of sharp cheesy flavor right before hitting the extra cheesy center.
  • Normally, Arancini is paired with a marinara dipping sauce. I wanted to try something a little different so I whipped up a Ranch Pesto dipping sauce instead. The sauce is made by combining ranch dressing, basil pesto (pre-made), lemon juice, oregano, and black pepper. This is very easy to put together, and once you dip your rice ball into this sauce, you will understand why my family loves it.
hand dipping arancini into pesto ranch dipping sauce

A few tips when making Arancini:

Tips & Tricks

  • Once your rice balls are stuffed and rolled, you’ll want to allow them to cool in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This gives the balls time to set before coating them in the breadcrumbs and makes it easier to maintain their shape.
  • Chicken stock is the most versatile for arancini, but you can also use vegetable stock.
  • Add a little extra water to the palm of your hand as you prepare to roll each ball of rice. Note: The rice mixture itself should be “wet” and not dry. If you find your rice is dry, add a little more chicken stock to reach the desired consistency.
  • Combing two types of breadcrumbs or solely using panko bread crumbs results in a lighter crunch since panko absorbs less oil. I combine the two for the best of both worlds, but if you can only choose one, go with panko bread crumbs.
  • When deep-frying your arancini, the oil should cover most (if not all) of the rice ball. You want to rice ball to be submerged enough, so they are cooked evenly on all sides.

Can I make Arancini ahead of time?

You sure can! Arancini can be made up to 3 days in advance. However, I would wait to fry and reheat them later. I would prepare them (uncooked) and store them in the fridge. When you are ready to serve them, fry them at that time so they are fresh and crispy. If you have leftovers, you can follow the same method, but instead of re-frying them, you would put them in the oven for 15 minutes.

breaking arancini open and showing the melted cheese

When you want to create something unique for your next game night, family gathering, or just dinner with the family, give these stuffed rice balls a spot on your dinner table!

Here are a few more appetizer recipes:

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arancini balls stuffed with smoked mozzarella

Arancini (Italian Rice Balls) with Peso Ranch Sauce

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Eric Jones
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x


A quick and easy recipe perfect to be served as a snack, quick bite, or a complete meal on its own, these Arancini (Italian Rice Balls) are kicked up a notch with fantastic seasoning, smoked mozzarella, and a creamy pesto ranch dipping sauce.


Units Scale
  • 3 cups cooked rice (1 cup uncooked rice)
  • 1/4 cup Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Cilantro
  • 1/2 lb. Smoked Mozzarella Cheese, cubed
  • 2 Large Organic Eggs
  • 1 cup Italian Breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Basil Flakes
  • 2 tsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp Sage
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1 tsp Himalayan Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper

Pesto Ranch Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup Ranch
  • 1 tbsp. Basil Pesto, pre-made
  • 1 tsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 tsp. Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper


  1. Cook your rice according to its instructions. Set it to the side.
  2. Cut your smoked mozzarella into small cubes. Set to the side. 
  3. Remove the stems from the cilantro leaves and chop them into fine pieces. Set to the side. 
  4. In a small bowl, whisk (paid link) 2 eggs and add to a large bowl along with cooked rice, chicken stock, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs, cilantro, smoked paprika, basil flakes, oregano, sage, ground nutmeg, ground ginger, Himalayan salt, and black pepper.
  5. Form balls by taking a handful of rice (enough to fit in the ball of your hand) and slightly create a hole with your thumb. Add a smoked mozzarella block to the middle of the rice ball. Form into a ball, making sure the cheese is enclosed completely.
  6. Add remaining Italian breadcrumbs and panko into a large bowl. Roll rice balls into the breadcrumb mixture until completely coated. Place on parchment paper and cool in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
  7. Add oil to pan and heat pan to medium heat. Fry the rice balls for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and cool on parchment paper or a paper towel.
  8. For the pesto ranch sauce, add all ingredients into a bowl and whisk (paid link) together until smooth. 


Add cold water to a bowl to use for your hands to keep the rice from sticking while forming the balls. 

Feel free to adjust the size of the rice ball (the overall size and/or ratio of rice to mozzarella cheese block) to your preference.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Fry
  • Cuisine: Sicilian


  • Calories: 559
  • Sugar: 2.7g
  • Sodium: 538mg
  • Fat: 17.4g
  • Carbohydrates: 76.9g
  • Fiber: 3.1g
  • Protein: 21.8g
  • Cholesterol: 133mg

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  1. Really enjoyed the texture of these! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Eric Jones says:

      So glad you enjoyed them, Sherry!