Kid-friendly Irresistible Italian Arancini Risotto Balls + 15-minute Tomato Confit + Italian Sodas Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Family Meal Plan: Italian Arancini Risotto Balls + 15-minute Tomato Confit + Iconic Italian Sodas

Family Meal Plan: Irresistible Italian Arancini Risotto Balls + 15-minute Tomato Confit + Italian Sodas

Italian Arancini Risotto Balls + 15-minute Tomato Confit + Iconic Italian Sodas

by Dylan Sabuco
Photo by Katarzyna Hurova/
prep time
20 minutes
cook time
30 minutes
6-12 servings

Fun Food Story

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Italian Arancini Risotto Balls

Arancini is a family staple of Chef Instructor Dylan Sabuco, who wrote this recipe. Traditionally, arancini are made with day-old rice or risotto. Growing up, Dylan's mother would roll day-old lemon risotto in cheese and breadcrumbs before frying the delicate rice balls until crisp. It was one of his favorite snacks! Our version of arancini retains the spirit of the dish with one key difference: instead of arborio rice, which can take a long time to prepare, we’re using instant rice. This speeds up the process without detracting from the great flavor of these Irresistible Italian Arancini.

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Shopping List

  • 1 C cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 C Parmesan cheese, grated **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free cheese, like Daiya)**
  • 1 egg **(for EGG ALLERGY sub 1 T flaxseed + 3 warm water)**
  • 1/2 C yogurt, vanilla or plain **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub soy yogurt)**
  • 1 C instant rice, uncooked
  • 1 C vegetable stock
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 4 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free panko crumbs)**
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 3 C sparkling water (use your favorite flavor)

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • bake :

    to cook food with dry heat, as in an oven.

  • mash :

    to reduce food, like potatoes or bananas, to a soft, pulpy state by beating or pressure.

  • pan-fry :

    to fry in a pan in a small amount of fat.

  • simmer :

    to cook a food gently, usually in a liquid, until softened.

  • stir :

    to mix together two or more ingredients with a spoon or spatula, usually in a circle pattern, or figure eight, or in whatever direction you like!

  • whisk :

    to beat or stir ingredients vigorously with a fork or whisk to mix, blend, or incorporate air.

Equipment Checklist

  • Small saucepan + matching lid
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Container with lid
  • Medium saucepan + matching lid
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Wooden spoon or spatula
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Oven
  • Muffin pan
  • Pitcher


Italian Arancini Risotto Balls

  • 1 C instant rice, uncooked
  • 1 C vegetable stock
  • 2 pinches salt (divided)
  • 1/4 C Parmesan cheese, grated **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free cheese, like Daiya)**
  • 1 T vegetable oil + more for greasing pan
  • 1 egg **(for EGG ALLERGY sub flax seed + water—more info below)**
  • 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free panko crumbs)**

15-minute Tomato Confit

  • 1 C cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt

Iconic Italian Sodas

  • 1/2 C yogurt, vanilla or plain **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free vanilla or plain yogurt)**
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 3 C sparkling water (use your favorite flavor)
  • ice

Food Allergen Substitutions

Italian Arancini Risotto Balls

  • Dairy: Substitute dairy-free/nut-free cheese (like Daiya) for Parmesan cheese.
  • Egg: Substitute 1 T flax seed + 3 T water for 1 egg. Soak in warm water for 5 minutes or until fully absorbed and thickened.
  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute gluten-free panko crumbs for breadcrumbs.

Iconic Italian Sodas

  • Dairy: Substitute dairy-free/nut-free vanilla or plain yogurt.


Italian Arancini Risotto Balls

combine + simmer

Combine 1 cup rice, 1 cup vegetable stock, and 1 pinch of salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes with the lid on.

transfer + add + stir

After five minutes, remove the rice from the saucepan and place it in a large mixing bowl. (Make sure the rice has absorbed all the liquid; if it is wet, the batter will turn into a soup instead of a thick ball.) Add in 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 pinch of salt, and 1 egg and stir to combine.

preheat + grease

Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a muffin pan.

shape + roll

Now the batter is ready to be shaped and rolled in the panko! Using clean hands or a spoon, scoop out roughly 2 tablespoons of batter and roll the batter into a ball. If the rice mixture is falling apart, continue to roll until it begins to stick together. Coat each ball in panko breadcrumbs and set aside.

cook + flip

Place 12 uncooked Arancini in the muffin pan and cook for 5 minutes on each side. After 5 minutes the arancini will be starting to brown on the bottom and need to flip to cook evenly. Carefully, using a spoon, turn each Arancini over.

remove + serve

Remove the Arancini from the muffin pan and serve with 15-Minute Tomato Confit (see recipe). Buon Appetito!

15-minute Tomato Confit

combine + cook + stir

Combine 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon oregano, **3|| tablespoons vegetable oil, and 1 tsp salt** in a small saucepan and turn the heat to low. Place the lid on the pan once the tomatoes are coated in the seasoning and oil. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

transfer + cool + shake

Remove the tomatoes from the pan and place them into a container with a lid. Allow the tomatoes to cool for 5 minutes before having your kids carefully shake the container until the tomatoes burst open and create a simple sauce to serve with Arancini Risotto Balls (see recipe).

Iconic Italian Sodas

combine + stir

In your pitcher, combine 1/2 cup yogurt and 1/2 cup sugar. Stir until the sugar is well mixed and mostly dissolved.

add + stir

Then, add 3 cups sparkling water and stir to create a bubbly Italian soda. Use your favorite flavor of sparkling water to spice up this drink! Pour over ice and enjoy!

Surprise Ingredient: Rice!

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Photo by Elizaveta Galitckaia/

Hi! I’m Rice!

"I'm just a little grass seed but loved the world over! I'm Rice! I'm an essential part of the diets of almost every culture! You may have eaten me with Mexican tacos, Korean bibimbap, Indian curries, Mongolian fried rice, Southern Creole gumbo, Filipino adobo, Hawaiian poke, or Japanese sushi, just to name a few!"

History & Etymology

  • Rice is a grain or grass, like wheat, millet, or barley. It was first cultivated in China somewhere between 6,000 and 9,000 years ago.
  • Rice is a seed from a grass species, usually Oryza sativa or Asian rice. The other domesticated rice species is Oryza glaberrima or African rice. African rice has been grown for 3,000 years and is hardier, more pest-resistant, and nuttier tasting rice than Asian rice. 
  • Rice is a staple food and supplies as much as half of the daily calories for half the world's population. In many countries, they eat rice at every meal. No wonder a few Asian countries value rice so highly that some of their translations of the word "eat" or "meal" also mean "rice."
  • China consumes the most rice worldwide. Annually, Asians eat over 300 pounds of rice per person, and Americans eat about 26 pounds per person.
  • Rice is the second-highest worldwide crop produced after maize (corn). However, since maize is mainly grown for purposes other than human consumption, rice is the most important grain for human consumption. 
  • The English word "rice" comes from Middle English which comes from the Old French "ris," from the Italian "riso," and finally, from the Greek "oruza."


  • Most types of rice are annual plants, meaning they live only one year. But several types of rice can survive and produce grains for up to 30 years. 
  • Rice is often categorized by its size—either short, medium, or long grain. Short grain, or japonica rice, has the highest starch content and makes the stickiest rice, while the long grain, or indica variety, is lighter and tends to remain separate when cooked. 
  • In addition to japonica and indica, there are two other categories: aromatic and glutinous. Aromatic is a medium to long-grained rice that generally results in a light and fluffy texture. Varieties in this category include Basmati and Jasmine, which you can find in grocery stores (more about these below). Glutinous rice (also called sticky, sweet, or waxy rice) has very low amylose (starch component) content, making it very sticky when cooked. 
  • Rice is also classified by its milling process. White rice has been milled the most, having had its hull (or husk), bran, and germ layers removed. Brown or whole grain rice has been milled to remove its hull, and rough or paddy rice has not been milled at all and cannot be consumed.
  • There is an abundance of different kinds of rice—globally, over 120,000 varieties. 
  • Rice cultivation is suited for countries with low labor costs and high rainfall as it is very labor-intensive and needs large amounts of water to grow. 

How to Pick, Buy & Eat

  • Brown rice is 100 percent whole grain and, therefore, the most nutritional of the many different forms. Brown rice retains the bran and germ because it is not milled as much as white rice, which loses a lot of nutrients in the milling process. However, brown rice takes longer to cook, about 45 minutes, compared to white rice, which takes 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Aromatic rices, named because they have distinct flavors and aromas (especially while cooking), include Basmati and Jasmine. Basmati is long-grained rice from India. It contains a compound also present in freshly baked bread and pandan spice and has nutty, spicy, and floral flavors. Jasmine rice is long-grained rice from Thailand and Cambodia. It also has the same compound found in Basmati rice and is similar but perhaps adds more of a grassy floral and slightly sweeter fragrance to a meal. Some people describe its flavor as close to popcorn. Jasmine is also stickier. 
  • Arborio is short-grained rice from Italy. Its grains remain firm when cooked and are chewy and creamy. Arborio rice is often used in making risotto and rice pudding because of its creamy texture and starchy taste that goes well with other flavors.
  • Rice is truly an international food, found in the cuisines of just about every country. It is often served as a side dish but can also be a vital component of main dishes and desserts.
  • Rice flour is made from finely ground rice. It is a thickening agent that prevents liquids from separating in refrigerated and frozen foods. Rice noodles used in many Asian dishes are made with rice flour, and you can also find it in desserts, like "mochi" and other rice cakes. It is a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour.


  • Rice is a complex carbohydrate with very little sodium or fat, and it supplies 20 percent of the world's food energy.
  • Rice contains several B vitamins and manganese. Brown or whole grain rice is more nutritious than white rice, but white rice is often enriched by adding some B vitamins and iron back in. Brown rice is also high in magnesium, phosphorus, protein, and fiber.


What are Arancini?

Photo by GK1982/
  • Arancini are stuffed rice balls with a breadcrumb coating that are fried or, less frequently, baked. They originated in Sicily, Italy, possibly in the 10th century. Arabs ruled then, and the Arab kibbeh, a similar dish, may have influenced the arancini's creation. 
  • The type of arancini commonly found in Sicilian cafés is called "arancini cû sucu" in the Sicilian regional language ("arancini al ragù" in Italian). They are filled with ragù, which is meat, tomato sauce, and mozzarella or other cheese. Other variations include fillings with butter or béchamel sauce, mushrooms, or pistachios.

Let's Learn About Italy!

Photo by Marina Andrejchenko/
  • Italy became a unified country in 1861, only 150 years ago. It is sometimes called "bel paese" or "beautiful country."  
  • Italians invented the piano and the thermometer! 
  • In ancient Roman mythology, two twin brothers named Romulus and Remus founded Rome, Italy's capital city. The myth says the twins were abandoned and then discovered by a she-wolf before being found and raised by a shepherd and his wife. Eventually (and after many exciting adventures), they found themselves at the location of Palatine Hill, where Romulus built "Roma." The Italian wolf became Italy's unofficial national animal. 
  • In the 1930s and 40s, Mussolini, Italy's prime minister, and dictator tried to eliminate all foreign words from the Italian language. How did he do that? He just changed them! For example, in soccer, "goal" became "meta." Disney character names changed, too: Donald Duck became "Paperino;" Mickey Mouse became "Topolino;" and Goofy became "Pippo." Although they're not banned anymore, these words and names have stuck. So now if you go to the Italian Disneyland, called Gardaland Park, you will see Topolino and Pippo! 
  • About 60 million people call Italy home, and it is 116,350 square miles, slightly larger than the US state of Arizona. If you compare that to the United Kingdom, 67 million people live there, and it is about 94,350 square miles. So, the UK is smaller than Italy but has a bigger population! 
  • The Italian flag is green, white, and red. These colors represent hope, faith, and charity.
  • The average Italian eats close to 55 pounds of pasta annually. If you think about how light pasta is, that is a considerable amount! There are more than 500 different types of pasta eaten in Italy today. 

What's It Like to Be a Kid in Italy?

  • Kids begin school at 6 years old. They grow up speaking Italian, but they learn English in school, so many become bilingual in Italian and English.
  • The most popular sport for kids is football (soccer). The Italian word for soccer is "calcio," the same word they use for "kick." A favorite of younger kids is "Rody, the bouncing horse," a plastic horse that a small child can hop onto and bounce around the room. Rody was invented in Italy in 1984.  
  • The family ("la famiglia") is a central characteristic of Italian life. Children have great respect for their older relatives. It is traditional to name the first male child after the grandfather and the first female child after the grandmother.
  • If kids live close to school, they can go home and have lunch with their families! Lunch at school might be pasta, meat with vegetables, a sandwich, or a salad with lots of ingredients. Families typically eat dinner later (7 to 8 pm), so kids end up staying up later, too!
  • Between lunch and dinner, kids often enjoy "merenda," which is an afternoon snack that translates to "something that is deserved." It is really a mini-meal that can include both savory and sweet foods. Examples of savory foods are a salami or mortadella sandwich, a slice of rustic bread rubbed with a cut, raw tomato, or "pizza bianca" (white pizza without tomato sauce). Types of sweet foods eaten during merenda are "gelato" (a lower-fat type of ice cream), any kind of cake, or biscotti dipped in warm milk.

The Yolk's On You

What is the only food that you are allowed to play with? 

Yo-Yo Gurt!

The Yolk's On You

What did one rice say to the other rice? 

"I hope I see you a-grain!"

THYME for a Laugh

How does carbon dioxide make soda so bubbly?

By obeying the laws of fizz-ics!

That's Berry Funny

Did you hear the tall tale about rice? 

There wasn’t a grain of truth behind it!

THYME for a Laugh

What did the Risotto say to the chef?

"Rice to meet you!"

The Yolk's On You

Why did the tomato blush? 

Because he saw the salad dressing!

That's Berry Funny

Why does milk turn into yogurt when you take it to a museum?

Because it becomes cultured!

THYME for a Laugh

How do you fix a broken tomato? 

Tomato paste!

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