Deep fried risotto balls, stuffed with slow cooked beef ragu, make a great party food! Whether you make mini versions for cocktail parties or larger ones for a first course, these arancini with beef ragu will have people talking! They can be made ahead of time and reheated when ready to serve. They are definite crowd-pleasers!

Arancini Stuffed with Beef Ragu
Arancini Stuffed with Beef Ragu

Arancini……..deep fried risotto balls….

Arancini are a thrifty way of not wasting leftover risotto. In Italy they are usually the size of the orange they are named after and traditionally served as antipasti. For catering I prefer to serve them slightly smaller than their citrus namesake. An arancini the size of a ping-pong ball makes one delectable appetizer -perfect for cocktail parties!

These traditional Sicilian rice balls are often stuffed with mozzarella. However, the stuffing options are endless. I often stuff mine with mixed wild mushrooms and mozzarella. Alternatively, you can use sun-dried tomatoes, tapenade, peas, ham, or even seafood! This recipe uses my beloved Beef Ragu – a slow-cooked meat sauce that is delicious on pappardelle pasta. I always make a double batch of ragu and keep it in the freezer. The second batch makes for a quick pasta dinner or…….a lovely stuffing for arancini.

I prepare risotto specifically for making these risotto balls. You can make a simple risotto bianco or risotto Milanese (with saffron). The key is to let the risotto cool before forming the arancini. It is much easier to form arancini with cold rice. For small balls use 1 heaped tablespoon of rice. For antipasto portions you should use a scant 1/4 cup of rice.

Serving Arancini…

When served as an antipasti, arancini are usually accompanied by a marinara sauce. However, for cocktail parties I prefer to stuff them well and omit the dipping sauce. Otherwise, the sauce usually ends up on my guests’ shirts. Arancini with beef ragu is perfect for cocktail parties. The delicious meat sauce is already encased in the rice ball. No need for messy dipping sauce and unnecessary dry cleaning bills!

Arancini with Beef Ragu

Arancini with Beef Ragu

Traditional Sicilian fried rice balls made even better with a beef ragu stuffing

  • Author: Jessica Verity
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • 3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) butter
  • 1 onion, finely diced 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup of Arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 cups beef ragu 
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • oil for deep frying (about 1.5 liters/6 cups)


To Make the Risotto:

  1. Heat the stock in a small stock pot until simmering and maintain the stock at a near simmer.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a large stock pot and add the onions. Sauté until translucent and soft.
  3. Add the rice and saute for about 2 minutes, until you can see the grains losing their opaqueness.
  4. Add the wine and simmer until absorbed/evaporated.
  5. Add one ladle of stock to the rice. Stir occasionally until it is absorbed. Make sure not to have the heat too high that the stock evaporates instead of being absorbed.
  6. Once the stock is absorbed you can add another ladle full of stock and repeat.
  7. Continue cooking, gradually adding stock. The risotto should take about 25 minutes to cook.
  8. When the risotto is almost cooked but still feels slightly hard inside you should only have 1 ladle full of stock left.
  9. Remove the risotto from the heat. Add the stock, cheese and lemon zest, stir and cover for 2 minutes.
  10. When the risotto is ready pour it out onto a baking tray or Pyrex dish to cool.
  11. For the Arancini:
  12. Depending on the size of arancini you are making (read above post) place 1 heaped tablespoon or 1 scant 1/4 cup of risotto in the palm of one of your hands and flatten into a patty shape, making a small indent where you will place the ragu.
  13. Place a spoon full of filling in the center of the patty (how much depends on the size of arancini you are making) and use your palm to enclose the filling with the rice patty. Form into a ball shape.
  14. Continue making arancini and placing them on a parchment paper lined tray. When done place them in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  15. Place flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in 3 separate bowls.
  16. Dust each rice ball first in flour, then egg and finally in breadcrumbs to coat. 
  17. Heat the oil in a deep fryer or a large soup pot. You want it to reach 350F/170C. If you don’t have a high heat thermometer you can tell the oil is hot enough by testing it with small pieces of bread. When you drop a small bread piece into the oil it should bubble immediately and turn golden brown within 45 seconds. 
  18. When the oil is hot enough lower the arancini into the oil with a slotted spoon and cook until golden brown all over. This should take 5-8 minutes depending on size. 
  19. Remove and drain on a paper towel lined tray. Sprinkle with salt.
  20. Allow a few minutes to cool and serve.


You can make these ahead of time and gently reheat in a 350/180 oven until hot through, about 6-10 minutes. 

Keywords: Arancini, risotto, beef ragu