It can be conical or spherical. Arancino di riso in Sicily has different shapes depending on where it’s made. In the Catania area it’s conical like the Etna volcano, while in the Palermo and Trapani surroundings arancino di riso is spherical and reminds of an orange because of its round shape and color.
Arancini, also called arancine, are crunchy spheres filled with rice, saffron and meat ragù that are fried in extra virgin olive oil, covered in a golden and crunchy breading.
Arancino di riso has antique origins back from end the XIX century, period in which it was consumed for lunch by peasants that cultivated the warm Sicilian soil of citrus fruit trees. Tradition is that arancino comes from the Arabic use of eating rice and saffron seasoned with meat and herbs.
The crunchy breading comes from the reign of Federico II: the breading made the rice easily transportable, and for this reason was the perfect meal for hunting.
Today arancini di riso are still prepared the same way, with the same tradition and love of people that made it one the most popular street food in Italy. It’s probably the most distinctive dish to give an example of the taste of Sicilian cuisine.
To prepare perfect arancini you need to first cook rice. Heat the broth in a small pan and add saffron. When the broth is boiling, add rice and cook over medium heat until the broth has been totally absorbed. Let the rice stand in a wide pan, add butter and Parmigiano and let them amalgamate.
Prepare the filling: brown the grounded meat with some oil and add finely grounded onion. Blend with white wine, add tomato sauce, peas and let it heat for 30 minutes.
Now that all the ingredients are ready, you can shape your arancini. Get some rice in your palm, add a spoon of filling, a mozzarella cube and add some more rice. Shape some little balls, roll them in flour and then in eggs and finally in breadcrumbs. Fry arancini in abundant oil and serve them hot.
Arancino or Arancina? It’s just a one-letter change, but that’s enough to start the discussion among real Sicilians. In the eastern part of Sicily they call it Arancina, while it’s Arancino in the west side.
The taste remains anyways the same! Arancini di riso are a specialty that is consumed all year round, but on the 13th of December, during the festa di Santa Lucia, the entire island celebrates the classic version of the dish, made with meat ragù or with mozzarella and ham.