How To Make Easy Leftover Risotto Balls (Arancini)

updated Jun 27, 2023
How To Make Easy Leftover Risotto Balls (Arancini)

A shatteringly crunchy crust encasing a creamy, gooey, and cheesy risotto rice center makes risotto balls the real reason to make risotto in the first place.

Makesabout 30 risotto balls

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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Sequels usually fail to recapture the original magic of a book or movie. And when it comes to dinner, leftovers languish in the refrigerator or end up as a sad desk lunch. But on a rare occasion, the second take is the reason to try it in the first place. Case in point? Risotto balls.

There is a lot to love about a pan-fried two-bite morsel of rice and cheese, but the best thing is breaking through a thin, crispy coating to reveal ultra-rich and creamy rice and a pocket of gooey cheese. Here’s how to make these all yours.

Quick Overview

Key Steps for Making Risotto Balls

  • Separate the yolks from the whites. Use egg yolks to mix into the risotto, and the whites for coating the risotto balls.
  • Shape and stuff the balls. Scoop leftover risotto into two-tablespoon portions and roll into balls, 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Tuck a small cube of part-skim mozzarella into the center, and pinch to completely cover it with the rice.
  • Dredge the balls. Roll the balls of rice in flour and then in the whisked egg whites. The final layer is fine, dried breadcrumbs.
  • Pan-fry the balls. Heat about two cups of oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet and fry risotto balls in a cast iron skillet.

What Are Risotto Balls?

Risotto balls go by many names in Italy, from arancini in Sicily to supplì al telefono in Rome. Arancini means little oranges, a nod to their rotund and golden appearance, while supplì al telefono refers to the long telephone cord-like strings of molten mozzarella that emerge when you bite into the balls. Regardless of what you call them, they are a clever and indulgent way to use up leftover risotto rice.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Tips for Making Risotto Balls

  • You need to separate the egg yolks from the whites. Mix two of the yolks into the risotto, and reserve the other two for another use (might I suggest raspberry lemon curd?). The whites are for coating the risotto balls. Simply whisk them until loose and frothy.
  • Resist the temptation to put a large cube of cheese in the center. The cheese needs to be completely surrounded by rice so that it does not explode out of the ball. The goal is melty, gooey cheese mingling with creamy rice, not sizzling cheese in the cooking oil.
  • While fresh breadcrumbs or panko have become my go-tos for breading, the canister of regular dried and finely ground crumbs is what you want here. They completely coat the risotto balls in a thin layer that fries up into a rich, crispy exterior.
  • Try not to overcrowd the pan when you fry eight balls as that causes the oil temperature to drop dramatically. The oil should come up about halfway on the balls. This means that you will only need to turn them one time and maintain their shape.
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Serving Risotto Balls

Once the balls come out of the hot oil, drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. While you want to serve them hot for that glorious cheese pull, they do need to cool for a couple of minutes so they do not burn your mouth! Spoon some marinara sauce into the bottom of a serving dish and pile a few balls into the center. Dust with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

If you make the balls in advance, wait to plate them in the sauce until just before serving, as the crisp crust softens in the sauce.

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How To Make Easy Leftover Risotto Balls (Arancini)

A shatteringly crunchy crust encasing a creamy, gooey, and cheesy risotto rice center makes risotto balls the real reason to make risotto in the first place.

Makes about 30 risotto balls

Nutritional Info


  • 4

    large eggs

  • 3 to 4 cups

    cold leftover risotto

  • 2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 cups

    fine dried breadcrumbs

  • 2 ounces

    part-skim mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

  • 2 cups

    vegetable oil, for frying

  • For serving: Fnely grated Parmesan cheese, marinara sauce


  • Mixing bowls

  • Whisk

  • Wooden spoon or silicone spatula

  • Parchment paper

  • Paper towels

  • Baking sheets

  • Kitchen scale

  • Knife and cutting board

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Large stainless steel or cast iron skillet

  • Tongs


  1. Separate the eggs. Separate the eggs. Whisk the whites in a small bowl until fluid and frothy. Place 2 of the egg yolks into a mixing bowl with the leftover risotto and stir until completely incorporated. Save the remaining 2 yolks for another use or discard.

  2. Set up a dredging station. Place the flour and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Place the dried breadcrumbs into another bowl. Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels; set aside.

  3. Shape and stuff the balls. Place a piece of parchment on a work surface. Divide the risotto into 2-tablespoon portions and form into 1 1/2-inch balls. Tuck a cube of mozzarella into the center of the risotto ball, making sure to completely surround the cheese with rice. Place the ball onto the parchment and repeat with the remaining risotto and cheese cubes.

  4. Dredge the balls. Working with one at a time, roll a risotto ball in the flour until coated. Transfer to the egg whites and turn to coat. Place in the breadcrumbs, tossing until coated in a thin layer. Cup your hand and lightly toss the breaded risotto ball until it forms a smooth, round ball. Return the ball to the parchment and continue to coat the remaining risotto balls in the breading mixture.

  5. Heat the oil. Pour the oil into a large skillet so that there is a depth of 1/2 inch (for a 10-inch skillet you’ll need 2 cups of oil). Heat over medium-high heat until a sprinkling of breadcrumbs sizzles immediately, about 350°F.

  6. Pan-fry the balls. Add 8 of the risotto balls to the hot oil (do not overcrowd the pan). Fry until deeply golden-brown on the bottom side, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the balls and cook until golden-brown all over, 2 to 3 minutes more, adjusting the heat if necessary.

  7. Drain and serve the balls. Transfer the risotto balls to the paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain and cool for 2 minutes. Continue frying the rest of the balls, then serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and marinara sauce.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Balls can be formed and breaded up to 1 day in advance. Store in the refrigerator. You may need to add an extra 1 to 2 minutes to the frying time.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days. Recrisp in a 400°F oven for about 8 minutes.