Arancini Recipe with Tomato and Pesto

Arancini Recipe with Tomato and Pesto

Try this amazing arancini recipe with tomato and pesto!

Arancini is a fantastic Sicilian appetizer that can be prepped well in advance before your next party.

If you haven’t heard of them before it is basically risotto balls breaded and fried and served with your favorite sauce. You can season the risotto with any of your favorite italian flavors. I decided on all things Italian.

Arancini di Riso Pomodoro e Pesto!  Risotto with Tomato and basil! Sounds simple right? And it is but only when you add flavor layering. See you can’t just cook riso without having a good broth or stock. In this case I used a homemade tomato sauce (if you want to use my basic tomato sauce go here.)

The rice absorbs all the flavor of the tomato sauce into each grain of rice. So first you need to start off by making a good tomato sauce. Then add some good cheese to the rice. And finish with a delicious pesto sauce. Here is the recipe I hope you enjoy it!

Arancini with Tomato and Pesto Arancini di Riso Pomodoro e Pesto


  • 1 1/2 Cup arborio rice
  • 2 whole shallots (small diced)
  • 1 tsp garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 64 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 cup parmesan (grated)
  • 3 oz p'tit basque cheese (grated)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 sm onion (diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (sliced)
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 cups water
  • 48 oz chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp basil (chopped)
  • 3 tbsp parsley (chopped)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt (to taste)


  • 3 cups panko
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt (in each panko, flour, egg wash)
  • 1/2 cup pesto

For the tomato sauce

  1. In a sauce pot add olive oil with onion and chili flakes. Cook for 3 minutes and then add the garlic and fennel seed. Cook for another minute or two and then add the red wine. Cook the wine all the way down until there’s nothing left. Then add water, tomatoes, a tsp of salt, bring to a boil and cover with a lid. Cook for about 30-45 minutes and then add herbs. Then with a hand blender or vita mix puree until smooth, if the sauce is really thick add some water to it. Season with salt and pepper. Optional is to add a touch of cream. Set aside and keep warm.

How to make Arancini

  1. Take a small pot on medium high heat with olive oil, butter, and shallots. Saute for one minute, then add minced garlic and arborio rice. Toast for 1 to 2 minutes without burning. Then deglaze with the white wine. Cook the wine all the way down and then add the tomato sauce 8 oz at a time. Season the rice with a big pinch of salt.

    Continue cooking the rice stirring every once in a while to make sure the rice is not sticking to the pot and burning. Then add some more sauce when there isn’t much left and continue the steps. Cook the rice for about 20-25 minutes or until the rice has just a little bite to it ( think al dente). There shouldn't be a lot of liquid at this point. Then add the cheeses which should make the risotto nice and creamy. Season with salt and pepper and more cheese if need be (risotto should be reddish in color).

    It is important to get the rice seasoned really well here because this will be your filling. You don’t want weak or bland rice, be aggressive with the cheese, salt and pepper. The chili flakes from the tomato sauce should give a little spice to the rice but if you want more, feel free to add more chili flakes. Once you have an aggressively seasoned rice. Then pour onto a sheet pan to cool.

    Place in the refrigerator to cool completely. Once cooled add the chopped basil and mix well. Take a small ice cream scoop and scoop little balls of risotto onto another baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Continue until all the risotto is done. You can place the sheet pan either back into the refrigerator or the freezer for 20-30 minutes to insure the rice is very cold so it is easy for breading.

    Then set up a basic breading station with flour, egg wash, and bread crumbs. Season each with salt and pepper. Then take the risotto arancini using your left hand only and place first in the flour, then egg wash. Then using only your right hand into the bread crumbs. Continue the process until you have all the risotto arancini done. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to fry.

To Finish

  1. In a small fryer at 325 degrees place a few arancini at a time. When frying you want to make sure that you don’t overcrowd the pan. Fry roughly for 3 minutes or until golden brown. If you wanted to do this a little bit ahead for guest you could fry them to a light brown color. And then bake them in the oven for 5-10 minutes when your guest arrive. (This allows you to do all the frying ahead of time and relieve you from that stress). Once your ready to serve add a few spoonfuls of pesto to the plate. Then add 3 arancini on top of the pesto. Top with a slice of green onion, serve and enjoy!




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