Arancini ([aranˈtʃiːni], Italian and Sicilian plural; in the singular, Italian: arancino, Sicilian: arancinu or arancina) are stuffed rice balls which are coated with bread crumbs and then deep fried. They are usually filled with ragù (meat and tomato sauce), mozzarella, and peas.
A number of regional variants exist which differ in fillings and shape. The name, which is translated as "little orange", derives from their shape and colour which, after cooking, is reminiscent of an orange. Arancini produced in eastern Sicily (especially in Catania) have a more conical shape.
In the cities of Palermo, Siracusa, and Trapani in Sicily, arancini are a traditional food for the feast of Santa Lucia on 13 December when bread and pasta are not eaten. This commemorates arrival of a grain supply ship on Santa Lucia's day in 1646, relieving a severe famine.
Today, with the increasing popularity of this finger food in modern Italian food culture, arancini are found all year round at most Sicilian food outlets, particularly in Palermo, Messina and Catania. The dish is often made using rice from left-over risotto.
The most common type of arancini sold in Sicilian cafés are arancini al ragù, which typically consist of meat in a tomato sauce, rice, and mozzarella. Many cafés also offer arancini al burro (with butter or béchamel sauce) or specialty arancini, such as arancini con funghi (mushrooms), con pistacchi (pistachios), or con melanzane (aubergine).
In Roman cuisine, supplì are similar but are commonly filled with cheese (different preparation methods and filling distribution). In Naples, rice balls are called pall'e riso. In a variant recipe originating among the Italian diaspora in Southeast Texas, the arancini are stuffed with a chili-seasoned filling.
In Italian literature, Inspector Montalbano, the main character of Andrea Camilleri's detective novels, is a well-known lover of arancini. The success of the book series and the television adaptation has contributed to making this dish known outside of Italy.