Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini (Italian Risotto Balls)

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Here’s the way I’d put it………this is what fried rice is supposed to be.

Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini (Italian Risotto Balls). When I made these the over a week ago now we decided the Chinese food industry of America got it all wrong. Now the Italians, they know what they’re doing. I know, these have a fancy name that you may or may not be able to pronounce and they don’t immedieately announce what secrets are hiding inside that crispy golden exterior of yumminess, but…just wow. By the way, the pronunciation is Italian but when said in the lazy American tongue without rolling the it would sound something like (are-on-cheeny). Here’s how to say it properly if you care to know.

Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini (Italian Risotto Balls) (4) I’ve been in a savory mood this week, which is unusual for me. Normally I’m racking my brain for savory ideas and trying to control my need to bake cake 24/7. It must be because we’re in that awkward hole between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Yeah, I know Chile doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, thank you. No, but we still do as a family and this will be our third time hosting our Thanksgiving here and defying physical borders. We can be just as thankful (if not more) in South America for our blessings as we were during all the years we lived in the States.

Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini (Italian Risotto Balls) (3) Remember a few weekends ago when I told you I had to make a bunch of appetizers for a party. Well, this was one of the new things I tried for it and I’m so excited to finally share them with you. The best part for me was watching everyone take their first bite of these creamy wonders. I was also happy to have these to take to said party as a vegetarian option for those who prefer not to eat meat because most of the other snacks I made were stuffed with some kind of pork, or at least chicken.

Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini (Italian Risotto Balls) (2) So, maybe they are more common where you live, but somehow I’d never heard of these until I fell into reading food blogs. I think they’ve changed my perspective on fried foods forever. I say tater tots, shmater snots, arancini is where it’s at people! Just imagine you’re favorite bowl of warm and creamy risotto. Okay, now picture it wrapped in a delicious coating of crispy, salty breadrumbs and filled with spots of melty mozzarella cheese. Heavenly perfection right there. 

Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini (Italian Risotto Balls) (8) These kind of feel more like a summer type snack to me but that’s probably because it’s getting really close to summer here and, try as I might, I can’t competely ignore it and pretend it’s Autumn.  However, I garauntee that these would be a smash hit at any holiday event. Can you spell best party bite EVER!

Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini (Italian Risotto Balls) (7) Really though, you’ve gotta try them. I know the risotto takes a little extra time, and even a bit longer with the brown rice, but if anything was ever worth a little extra TLC, these are. So have you started making any early holiday plans for this year?

Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini (Italian Risotto Balls) (5)

Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini (Italian Risotto Balls)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Yield: 18 - 20 balls


  • 3 tablspoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups short- or medium-grain brown rice
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated paresan cheese
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, chopped into small cubes
  • 2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
  • peanut or vegetable oil for frying


  1. Heat oil in medium high-sided pan or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add garlic and zucchini and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until browned and fragrant. Add brown rice and stir over heat for about 5 minutes until starting to brown. Pour in wine and cook until mostly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt, nutmeg, thyme, and 3 cups of water to pan. Reduce heat to medium low and cover for about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed.
  2. Start adding milk 1/2 cup at a time and stir gently while keeping heat about medium high. When the liquid is almost completely absorbed add another 1/2 cup. Continue adding milk until all 3 cups have been added and rice is mostly soft, you can add a bit more water and cook longer if needed to get it completely soft.
  3. Add cream and continue stirring until rice becomes very thick. remove pan from heat and add parmesan cheese, then salt and pepper to taste. Allow risotto to cool for about 15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle, then stir in mozzarella and form into 2 inch balls and dip into breadcrumbs. Place balls on a parchment lined tray and cover with plastic wrap then place in fridge for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
  4. Once completely chilled and failry solid, remove rice balls from fridge. Heat about 2 inches of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until a thermometer registers 350 degrees F (180 C). Carefully drop a few balls at a time into oil and fry on each side for about 1 minute until golden brown. Remove gently with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Continue frying until all are cooked.
  5. Season with more salt and pepper if desired and serve hot.


If you need to get these done faster you can freeze the balls for about 45 minutes instead of refrigerating. Although, if you leave them in freezer longer than that (like overnight), be sure to thaw them out completely before frying or you'll have fried r-ICE cubes.

Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini (Italian Risotto Balls) (6)

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  1. says

    OMG these look so good!!!!!!!!! I love the zucchini and brown rice combo, it seems like it would have a more interesting flavor than just a typical arancini.

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