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This recipe is part of our yearly Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. This Sicilian American tradition involves several unique fish dishes served in courses. This is hands-down the kids favorite recipe from the meal.
What are Arancini?
Never heard of them? You aren’t alone. I hadn’t either until I married my husband (of Italian decent) and saw his family making these little rice balls on Christmas (they actually do it backwards and serve pasta on Christmas Eve and seafood on Christmas, but I digress).
Arancini are rice balls, stuffed with some kind of filling (usually cheesy and delicious), rolled in bread crumbs, and then fried. The finished rice balls resemble mini oranges in color and size. This is where the name, which means “little oranges” comes from.
Traditionally breaded in flour or panko breadcrumbs, I’ve adapted the recipe to be gluten free and dairy optional. I don’t recommend this recipe if you can’t have eggs, as they are necessary to the finished texture.
I should also mention that this recipe includes rice and that cauliflower rice is not a good substitute for it. We don’t normally eat a lot of grains, but white rice is one exception. We eat white rice on special occasions and the kids have it a couple of times a month. Here’s the reason why, if you are interested.
Crab Cake Arancini Recipe Tips
These arancini are actually a fusion of crab cakes and classic arancini. I think this actually improves them, though I’m not Sicilian and may be committing some kind of Italian culinary heresy. I’m not sorry. They are delicious and I’m excited to debut them to my Sicilian hubby on Christmas Eve, since this is a new recipe I developed earlier this year and he was out of town when I tested them.
Arancini are a little time consuming to make, but they are worth the effort. I will make a double batch and even though we only each eat one as part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, the extra can be eaten for breakfast or cut up and put into an omelet later.
They aren’t an everyday healthy recipe, but are definitely worth making for a special meal!
Unusual Ingredients You’ll Need:
You’ll need a few ingredients that I don’t normally recommend and that can be tough to find. They are:
Sicilian Crab Cake Arancini Recipe
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 small onion (finely chopped)
- 1½ cups risotto rice (such as arborio)
- ½ red bell pepper (finely minced)
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 3½ cups chicken broth (may need more)
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 TBSP butter (or more olive oil)
- 8 oz fresh crab meat
- 1 (6.5 oz) can minced clams (drained)
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cup Parmesan cheese
- 1½ cups panko breadcrumbs (divided)
- oil for frying (such as coconut oil)
- ½ lb mozzarella cheese (cut into ½ inch cubes, optional)
- To make the risotto, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium high heat.
- Add the diced onion and saute until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
- Pour the rice into the pan and stir so that it absorbs the oil.
- Add the red bell pepper and stir to combine.
- Pour the wine over the rice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine has evaporated.
- Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and garlic powder over the rice.
- Add the broth in ½ inch increments, waiting each time for the liquid to absorb before adding more. This is crucial to the correct texture. You may need to add ½ to 1 cup of extra broth, depending on your rice. The finished texture should be cooked, but still slightly firm in the middle.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- In a small skillet, melt the butter.
- Add the crab meat and minced clams and saute until heated to let flavors intensify.
- Once the risotto is cooled, stir in the clams and crab mixture, the eggs, the Parmesan cheese, and ½ cup breadcrumbs and stir to combine.
- Heat oil for frying to 350°F in a fryer or large pan, making sure it is at least a few inches deep to allow room to cook.
- Form the mixture into 1 to 1½ inch balls or patties. If using mozzarella cheese, form risotto balls around each cube of cheese.
- Place the remaining breadcrumbs in a shallow dish.
- Roll each rice ball in the breadcrumbs to coat evenly.
- Fry for 3-4 minutes in the oil until evenly browned. Remove and cool.
- Top with fresh chopped parsley if desired and serve.
Do you have any favorite recipes to make at Christmas?
Discussion (6 Comments)
Hello, I see the recipe calls for 1.5 cups of breadcrumbs but in the instructions you only add 1/2 cup. What happens to the rest? Thanks!
Good catch Kristina! The balls/patties are rolled in the remaining breadcrumbs before frying. I’ll update the recipe accordingly.
Can they be made earlier in the day and refridgerated prior to frying? Thanks so much!
Katie - Wellness Mama
Regarding the Arancini balls, can you make these dairy free?
You could make them without the cheese, but I’m not sure how well they would hold together or how it would taste without…