Appetizers,  Recipes

Arancini {with Basil Pesto & Marinara Sauce}

Arancini with Basil Pesto & Marinara Sauce

Arancini {with Basil Pesto & Marinara Sauce}

I was the girl who grew up eating my spaghetti with butter and parmesan cheese.  No red sauce for this kid.  I even scraped the sauce off pizza before eating it.  

Over time I fell in love with Alfredo Sauce but still avoided tomato based sauces for the most part.  It was all about white sauce in our home, with lasagna and occasionally meatballs being an exception.  This all changed on Christmas Day.

Arancini with Pesto & Rao1

Our annual family Christmas dinner has evolved over the years into a vast array of appetizers and heavy hors d’oeuvres.  Each family brings a couple different dishes to share. 

This past Christmas I made Arancini, deep fried mozzarella stuffed risotto balls served with homemade basil pesto and store bought marinara sauce. 

We’ll get back to the marinara sauce in a minute. 

The risotto balls were a hit, definitely a recipe worth sharing.  Yet with the hustle and bustle of the holidays no pictures were taken until now.

THE Marinara Sauce

When the party was over nearly a full jar of marinara sauce remained in our refrigerator.  I decided to make those occasional Italian Meatballs and serve them with the marinara sauce. 

Rao’s Marinara Sauce.  

Oh my word. 


No, no…really, unless you’ve had Rao’s you won’t appreciate when I say, it changed our lives.  

Little did I know when I selected it off the super market shelf that this sauce had achieved award winning status.  We are full-in believers now.  Rrrrrao. 

If you want to hear your family roar like tigers you’ll want to pick up a jar.  Spaghetti & Meatballs with Rao’s Marinara have become a weekly staple for us.  We are working on our own copycat version of Rao’s but for now I’m keeping an eye on the sale flyers and stocking up.

Risotto Chilling

The Arancini

So now back to what you came for.  Arancini begins with a Basic Risotto Recipe that is then chilled for about an hour.  A beaten egg and fresh basil are stirred in before forming the risotto into 1 1/2-inch balls.  A cube of mozzarella cheese is inserted into the center of each ball which is then sealed around it.

Arancini breading

The cheese stuffed rice balls are then breaded.  Each ball is dipped into flour, then beaten egg, then dry Italian bread crumbs; coating well.

Working in small batches, the Arancini are fried in oil until nicely browned on all sides.  The outside will become crispy while the cheese center is nice and gooey.  Serve the Arancini with Basil Pesto & Marinara Sauce, for twice the dipping pleasure.

Arancini with Pesto & Rao2
Arancini with Pesto & Rao3

Arancini {with Basil Pesto & Marinara Sauce} is a fabulous appetizer that can be prepared at home, just allow yourself enough time to prepare the basic risotto recipe first, including time to chill it.  Your family and guests will love and appreciate this classic Italian dish.

All my best,
xo Libby

Arancini {with Basil Pesto & Marinara Sauce}

Libby with Lemony Thyme
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 8


  • Basic Risotto Recipe recipe link in post
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbl. fresh basil chopped
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cubed
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup dry Italian bread crumbs
  • Peanut oil for deep-frying
  • Basil pesto
  • Marinara sauce


  • Prepare Basic Risotto Recipe according to instructions. Chill for 1 hour. Stir in 1 beaten egg and fresh basil. Form into 1 1/2-inch diameter balls. Press mozzarella cube into the center of each ball and seal by rolling into a smooth ball.
  • Set up three bowls for the breading. One for flour, one for two beaten eggs, one for the Italian bread crumbs. Dip each risotto ball into flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs; coating each one well.
  • Heat 2 inches of oil in a large saucepan until a deep-fry thermometer reads 370 degrees. Fry the balls in small batches until they are well browned on all sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm with basil pesto and warm marinara sauce. Yield = 16 Arancini


    • libby

      Sometimes you just gotta deep fry something. Cheese stuffed rice balls seemed like a good place to start. Thanks for stopping in Becca.

  • Beverley

    Delicious! I love red sauce and not white sauce! Anyway I’ve never made risotto so this will get me in the kitchen to have a go. Perfect photo as always xoxo

    • libby

      We’re huge red sauce fans now too. I’ve been making risotto quite a bit lately. It has a reputation of being difficult I disagree. Hope you enjoy and if you get the chance to turn some of the leftover risotto in arancini you’ll extra pleased.

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