Arancini - An Easy Holiday Appetizer

This holiday season is unlike any other. And that means holiday entertaining is different than any other year too!

My family has a tradition of having a dressy sit-down meal Christmas Eve, while Christmas Day is "pajamas only". And for the dressy dinner, we typically go all out.

This year it will just be the two of us, and it will definitely be much more casual. But I still wanted to make our annual batch of arancini.

Arancini are amazing little orbs of delight. Typically a use for leftover risotto, they are crisp on the outside, cheesy and creamy on the inside. In a normal year, I'd make the risotto a couple of days ahead, let it chill, blah, blah, blah. This year, I'm looking for simplicity.

So I thought I'd try starting with one of WisConian Delectables' packaged rice mixes. Normally, I ban packaged mixes like these from my kitchen. But honestly the flavors AND quality are so amazing, they've become a staple in my home.

I opted for the Cranberry Festival flavoring, which is packed with wild rice and cranberries and sweetened with maple. And of course, I wanted to try it once ahead of time, so I made them last night.

Now that I know how easy it is to use these mixes as a base, I may never go back to the risotto method! Some notes:

- I reduced the amount of cooking liquid called for in the directions, as I wanted the rice mix to be a bit drier for frying.

- It is really important to let the rice mix cool before shaping them into balls.

- I used mozzarella, but any shredded cheese would be fine. Next time, I'll try with a sharp cheddar.

- Deep frying comes with risks, so be careful!

- Arancini are usually served on a bed of red sauce. But you can get creative with these. Maybe try them over a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce?

Holiday Market Arancini


  • 1 10-oz package Rice River Farms Cranberry Festival rice mix

  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1/2 cup Italian-flavored breadcrumbs, divided

  • 2 eggs, beaten with a fork

  • Vegetable oil as needed, for deep frying


  • Prepare the rice mix according to the package directions, omitting 1/4 cup of liquid. (Cook rice in 2 1/4 cups of water.)

  • Let rice cool about 30 minutes.

  • Add cheese, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and eggs to the cooled rice mixture. Using your hands, mix well.

  • Scoop rice mixture, using a 1/3-cup measuring cup, and form into a ball using your hands. Squeeze to remove any access moisture.

  • Roll rice ball in remaining breadcrumbs. Place rice ball on a plate lined with paper towels.

  • Continue with remaining rice mixture. You should yield seven or eight rice balls.

  • Fill a cast iron skillet with vegetable oil to the depth of about 1/2 inch and heat over medium-high heat.

  • Add rice balls two or three at a time to the heated oil. Rotate using a metal spoon until the balls are browned on all sides and well cooked. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels.

  • Serve immediately

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