Known all over the world from the beautiful island, the Sicilian arancine are confirmed as one of the most typical street food of the Trinacria. Despite the belief that the origin is popular, there are no historical sources that can prove it.

According to the tradition, which refers to the period of Arab domination, between the 9th and 11th centuries, the Arabs used to eat rice flavored with saffron, vegetables and meat, served on a tray that, during the banquets, was placed in the center of the table, so that everyone could use it.

The breading, however, is a later invention, usually attributed to Frederick II of Swabia.

Some information about origins and history of arancine

The origins of arancine is controversial because there are no written evidence. According to tradition there are many stories and hypotheses. For example, it is believed that that they have made their appearance in the convents, others believed that were born in the houses of the aristocrats, while others said that the arancine were born from the famous“kitchen of the leftovers” of the popular cusine.

What is certain is the origin of the basic ingredient. Rice combined with saffron is a typical combination of the Arab populations who, between 1800 and 1100, lived in Sicily. During the banquets the Saracens used the rice present on the trays placed in the center of the table, taking it with the hand and rolling it in the palm. Then, after dressing it with meat and vegetables, they ate it.

Later, around 1200, with the reign of Frederick II, the rolled rice“in the palm of the hand” turned into something more comfortable. The Swabian ruler, who greatly appreciated this delicious dish, thought of breading and frying rice, to create around it a delicious and crisp coating. In this way, arancine could be easily transported even during hunting and long journeys.

Why are they called “arancine” (little oranges)?

Regarding the etymology, the work of Giambonino da Cremona – one of the greatest translators from the Arabic of the Middle Ages – can help us. It is entitled Liber de ferculis et condimentis, and it was dedicated to Arabic gastronomy.

In his book, Giambonino da Cremona explains that, depending on the shape and size, all Saracen meatballs were named after the fruits they resembled. Oranges in Arabic are called naranj: here, therefore, is the assimilation.

The conical shape that, on the other hand, is typical of today’s arancine is the result of a fairly recent innovation. It is thought it was inspired inspired by the figure of Etna, or created for a more practical purpose. If you notice the people of Catania hold the orange from the tip, like an ice-cream cone.

Whatever the history and the original meaning, we cannot but agree that the arancine are one of the best dishes of the Sicilian tradition. Here, then, is the recipe offered for you by EMPORIO SICILIA!

Ingredients (for about 28/30 arancine, enough for about 7 people)

  • 1 Kg of “Originario” rice
  • 2½ l of water
  • 4 stock cubes
  • 2 little bags of saffron
  • 100 g of butter
  • 100 g di parmigiano, eggs, flour and breadcrumb
  • 2 l of seed oil


Put the water with the stock cubes on the fire. As soon as it boils add the saffron, wait a few moments for it to melt and add the rice. Cook for 7 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the rice rest with the lid on for another 15 minutes.

At this point pour the rice into a large bowl. Add the butter and Parmesan cheese and stir well. Wait for the rice to cool, then take some of it on your hand, forming a“cup” and adding seasoning. Close your hand and try to give it a spherical shape.

Cover each arancina with flour, egg and breadcrumbs (following this order), pressing to close it well and dropping the crumb in excess. Fry in plenty of hot oil until golden brown (about 7/8 minutes) and serve.

N.B. for breading, add some water to the egg, so that no foam is formed at the time of frying

image of arancini siciliani ai piselli e carne

Filling with meat

Arancino siciliano alla carne

Ingredienti (per 1 kg of rice)

  • ½ onion
  • Evo oil
  • ½ glass of white wine
  • ½ kg mixed minced meat (veal and pork)
  • peas (as necessary)
  • 150 g of chopped ham
  • Fresh chopped cheese (like caciocavallo o asiago) (as necessary)
  • About 400 ml of tomato sauce
  • 1 pack of white sauce (béchamel)
  • Salt (as needed)
  • Pepper (as needed)


Fry the onion, add minced meat and the white wine. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomato sauce just enough to make the sauce juicy, but not too much, and sugary. Add the peas and ham. When stuffing the arancine, add the cubes of cheese to the minced meat and stir with a little béchamel sauce.

Filling with butter

Arancine siciliane con burro e prosciutto  cotto

Ingredients (per 1kg of rice)

  • 400 g of mozzarella
  • 400 g chopped ham
  • 2 packs of white sauce (béchamel)
  • butter, pepper and nutmeg (as necessary)


Melt two knobs of butter over a low flame. Add the ham, the béchamel sauce, pepper and nutmeg. Cook the ham for a few minutes, until it is creamed. When you fill the arancine, add the diced mozzarella.

N.B. with 1 kg of rice is enough for about 28/30 arancine