What’s cooking today: Arancini in your air fryer

What’s cooking today: Arancini in your air fryer
Tony Jackman’s air fryer arancini. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Arancini are the little golden, crispy balls you make with leftover risotto. They’re a cinch to make in your air fryer.

Many Italian cooks make too much of a risotto dish, on purpose. This is so that the next day they can turn the leftovers into risotto balls, or arancini. (Or arancine, but more about that later.)

At the centre of an arancino is a delightful pool of molten mozzarella. The exterior is coated in flour, egg and then breadcrumbs (yes, you can use Panko, or just blitzed day-old bread). Then they can be deep-fried, or baked in the oven, or in the air fryer, as I discovered this week.

Regarding the name, an arancino is also called an arancina in certain parts of Italy, so the plurals would be either arancini (the masculine) or arancine. If ever you encounter the word arancia however, that’s an orange, while arancio is an orange tree and arancione is the colour orange. 

Rice is riso in Italian, and both arborio and carnaroli rice are Italian rice varieties, among others. Arborio is much more popular for use in a risotto than carnaroli, which is the dish made from those varieties. Carnaroli are fatter than the more slimline arborio grains. Both are packed with starch, and the starch is needed for a risotto, which is why you must never wash arborio or carnaroli before cooking with them, as you would with other varieties of rice such as basmati.

(Sorry, I’m learning Italian on Duolingo, so my head is full of it right now. I’ll try to desist, promise.)

And, whatever you call them, they’re a good reason to make too much risotto.

By “risotto”, obviously I don’t mean the plain rice whether raw or cooked. I mean a risotto dish. So your arancini will taste different, whether it’s butternut risotto or biltong risotto or risotto with broccoli and Cheddar cheese, or anything else.

You can also mix seasoning of your choice into the cold risotto before forming them into balls. But bear in mind whatever flavours you cooked into your risotto when making it; it may not need anything else.

Arancini are formed by taking a clump of the risotto in your hand, moulding it between your palms, and then pushing a piece of mozzarella into the centre and remoulding the risotto around it evenly. Then they’re dipped in flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs.

Obviously, the first thing you need to do is plan a supper of risotto, and make way too much, then refrigerate the balance.

(Makes 6)


2 cups leftover risotto

30 g mozzarella cheese, balled or in little chunks

1 egg, beaten

Olive oil spray

1 cup breadcrumbs (from 2 slices of day-old bread) mixed with:

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried Italian herbs

Salt and white pepper to taste


If you have a melon baller, use it to form balls of mozzarella. Otherwise, fashion them by cutting mozzarella into cubes. If you like, trim the edges to make them rounder, snacking on the bits you cut off. (It’s easier to form the risotto around them if they’re round.)

In three small bowls or bakkies, put some flour into one, an egg in another (and beat it), and breadcrumbs in the third. Have the mozzarella balls to hand too. And the risotto, obviously. (If you think it needs any seasoning, mix it in before forming the arancini.)

Divide the risotto into six equal parts. Take one part and form it into a ball with your hands. Roll it in flour, dip it in beaten egg, and roll it in breadcrumbs.

Preheat the air fryer to 200℃.

Spray the bottom of the basket with olive oil spray.

Place the arancini in the basket with space between them for airflow.

Air fry for 8 minutes at 200℃, turning half way.

Arancini can be served with all sorts of things: aïoli (garlic mayo), marinara sauce, polenta, radish salad (or relish), or a salad of green beans and tomatoes. DM

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed on a platter by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Tony, you are correct that there are many variants of arancini. But the original of originals is Sicilian – where arancini are white rice balls stuffed with cooked ham and mozzarella. Some have saffron added some have red meat sauce added. But the original Palermo arancini (prepared for the festival of St Lucia) comprise carnaroli rice creamed with oodles of butter, and for the rolled up balls stuffed with mozarella and cooked ham a double-dip of water based flour batter and then breadcrumbs. This gives a better crispness and golden colour.
    Using left-over risotto (or even other veg and meat combos for that matter) – well, maybe – but not quite the real thing!

  • 30 g of cheese, is that per arancini ball?

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