Crown (Extra Small)

Sicilian Arancini

Italian Flag - Intro

It’s impossible to deny that the very moment one hears of Sicilian cuisine, arancini immediately come to mind: this rice-based specialty, in fact, sums up the taste, aroma and colors of the exuberant culinary tradition of the Italian island. Let’s find out everything there is to know about this unmissable delicacy. Good reading!

What are Sicilian arancini?

What are Sicilian arancini?

Arancini are a rice-based specialty typical from the Italian region of Sicily. The most classic ones have a spherical shape or a pointed one with a flat base and are enriched with a filling made with ragù (the famous meat sauce), cheese, and peas. It must be said that, over time, many variations have been invented, showing that, when making this tasty delicacy, the only limit is the cook’s imagination.

Arancino or arancina?

… a doubt that, over time, has led to heated discussions. So let us try to understand what‘s the most name for the famous Sicilian specialty. Read the article by clicking this LINK.

The history of Sicilian arancini.

The history of Sicilian arancini.

There are very few certainties about the true origins of Sicilian arancini: the lack of written records leads to guesses that, as such, can provide, at best, fragments of truth.

Arancini: bowl or rice.

The most popular theory connects this delicacy to the Arabs, whose rule over Sicily lasted almost two and a half centuries, that is, from 827 to 1091: although many experts do not concur with this thesis (*1), there is no doubt that, thanks to this people, rice and saffron were introduced into the culinary tradition of the island, both of which happen to be ingredients of fundamental importance in the preparation of the specialty.

According to some scholars, arancini, in their primitive form, were a dessert, invented during the Middle Ages by a nobleman’s cook or, as is often the case, by the nuns of a convent: in time, this dessert would gradually evolve into the savoury preparation we know today.
What we know for sure is that the delicacy, in the form currently considered the most classic (the one stuffed with meat sauce), did not make its appearance until the 1700s, when the use of tomatoes, a plant from the New World, finally took hold as an ingredient in kitchens throughout Europe.

*1: In the Arab world, meat and rice are generally served separately.
*2: Two of the main ingredients of the most classic arancino.

Sicily the home of the arancino.

Sicily is one of Italy’s two major islands. It is also home to a large number of delicious food specialties, among them, arancino.

Where to taste arancini? The most traditional 'rosticcerie'.

Where to eat arancini? The most traditional rotisseries.

Here follows a short list of some of the most traditional rotisseries in the Sicilian cities of Catania and Palermo: places where it’s possible to savor the original arancini!

The types of Sicilian arancini.

Types of Sicilian arancini.

The Sicilian arancino (in Italian language, the singular for ‘arancini’), consists in a shell made with rice, stuffed with different fillings, breaded and fried. Its most classic types, belonging to the two ‘schools’ of reference, are:

Sicilian Arancino.

Arancino from Catania.

Pointed in shape and with a flat base, it consists in a shell made of saffron rice containing a filling of meat sauce, peas and cheese.

Sicilian Arancina.

Arancina from Palermo.

Spherical in shape (similar to an orange, in Italian language ‘arancia’), it consists in a shell made of saffron rice, containing a filling of meat sauce (the arancina ‘accarne’) or one prepared with béchamel sauce, mozzarella cheese and diced ham (the arancina ‘abburro’).

It goes without saying that, over time, a number of variations of these delicacies were born, differing not only in the filling, but also in the preparation of the rice itself. These include, for example, arancini alla norma’, flavored with fried eggplant and salted ricotta cheese, and arancini al pistacchio’, enriched with the famous Pistachios from Bronte PDO.

Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana.

Musica for Sicilian arancini.

The melodies of Mascagni’s ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ are, without doubts, the best soundtrack of an article about Sicilian arancini.

Map of Sicily and Trinacria.
The preparation of Sicilian arancini (hints).

The preparation of Sicilian arancini (hints).

The preparation of arancini, one of the most famous Sicilian specialties, is a procedure only apparently simple, needing instead great experience and attention in its execution. When making the typical arancino from the city of Catania (the ‘pointed’ one, filled with ragù meat sauce), these are the most important steps:

  • Preparation of the rice (with saffron, or tomato, butter and cheese);

  • Preparation of the filling (ragù sauce, made with tomato, meat, peas, onion, butter and oil);

  • Shaping the arancino (to be done by hand, inserting the filling and some cheese into the rice);

  • Passing in the batter and breading (using flour, water and breadcrumbs);

  • Frying (in seed oil);

The preparation of arancine in video.

This interesting video shows the method used to make Sicilian arancini. Please pay attention the Sicilian accent of the cook.
Many thanks to the authors, the Giglio Sisters, and, of course, to Aunt Antonia 🙂

The breading of Frederick II's arancini.

Sicilian arancini: one of the first take away foods.

There is an interesting legend, undoubtedly fanciful, according to which the credit for starting the breading and frying of arancini should be assigned to the cooks of a famous king of Sicily: Frederick II (1194-1250). Using this escamotage, they would have given their emperor an easy way to handle the delicacy while he was on the hunt, creating de facto one of the earliest types of ‘take-away’ food.

Santa Lucia arancini.

Saint Lucia’s arancini.

Although arancini are available in the Italian city of Palermo all year around, there is one day on which the local people are almost ‘forced’ to savor them: it’s the 13th of December, the date on which Saint Lucia, the patron saint of eyes and sight, is celebrated. On this occasion, in remembrance of a tremendous famine that occurred in the past, tradition has it that people abstain from eating bread and, more in general, starchy foods. However, it’s permitted to feed on rice (among other things): that’s why, of that day, the local fry shops have their hands full!

Sicilian Arancini PAT

Arancini PAT

Given their importance for the Sicilian gastronomy and culture, it should not surprise that the MiPAAF (Ministry of Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies) has included the ‘arancini di riso’ (rice arancini) in the list of Traditional Agri-food Products (PAT): they can be in fact considered, by all means, standard-bearers of the Italian taste all over the world.

The images displayed in this page belong to WebFoodCulture, with the exception of:

Pubblic Domain Images

Creative Commons Images