Not Your Nonna's Arancini Recipe

Not Your Nonna’s Arancini Recipe

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Sabra Greek Yogurt And A Smoky Taste Define This Non-Traditional Arancini

Step aside, Italian food traditionalists. I don’t want to step on any toes here, but I just created some damn tasty arancini that are – gasp – nothing like your Nonna used to make. Take a deep breath; it’ll be okay. We still like Nonna’s arancini, but every once in a while it’s nice to try a little new and, dare I say, healthier twist on it.

The first sacrilege is using rice that isn’t arborio. It’s true, arborio’s starchiness lends a lovely creamy consistency to dishes, but we can all agree that having to buy special versions of staples is just a bummer when you already have two other kinds of rice in your pantry. I used a rice blend (hence the dark grains), but either brown or short grain white rice would work well also.

That said, long grain rice such as basmati or jasmine probably wouldn’t be great, so if that’s all you happen to have on hand, you might have to go for that extra grocery store trip after all.


Second sacrilege: Sabra’s Greek yogurt dip. That’s right, the dip not only helps flavor the rice and keep it moist while the arancini cook, but more importantly, it is used in lieu of creating a risotto with the rice and helps everything stick together when you form the rice balls.

I used Sabra’s Greek Yogurt Diced Onion Dip, but I think their crisp bell pepper or Mediterranean Herb flavors would be equally delicious. And the best part – the onion dip does double duty for this recipe, being used inside the arancini itself and as a spicy dipping sauce when mixed with sriracha once they come out of the oven. Win-win.


Finally, we’re not frying anything today. Once you’ve assembled these bad boys, place them on baking sheets, pop them in the oven, and come back in 15 minutes. These arancini are for the people who appreciate delicious, comforting balls of rice filled with molten cheese, not for those who want to go the extra mile to create the real deal in their own kitchen. You down? Great – we just saved you at least three steps. You’re welcome!

Smoky Non-Traditional Arancini
Makes approximately 2 dozen

1 cup dry rice (mixed, brown, or Arborio are best)
1 10 oz. package Sabra Greek Yogurt Diced Onion dip, divided
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 lb piece of smoked jack or gouda cheese
1 cup Italian panko
1 tsp sriracha


1. Preheat oven to 400°.


2. Cook rice according to package instructions. Let cool 10 minutes.


3. Mix 1/2 cup of the onion dip into the rice.


4. Add thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Mix thoroughly.


5. Chop the cheese into 1/2 inch cubes.


6. Put the panko and 1/4 tsp in a bowl, making sure to stir in the garlic powder.


7. Using your hands, scoop up about 2 tbsp worth of rice and form a ball around a cube of the cheese. Squeeze tightly all around until smooth to help it hold the shape. (This is messy, that’s okay!)

8. Immediately after creating each ball of rice, roll the ball in the panko to coat. You won’t get a super thick covering but it should be enough to add a little crunch all the way around.

9. Space the arancini at least 1 inch away from each other on a baking sheet.


10. Bake for 15 minutes, until the panko just begins to brown. Serve immediately, hot out of the oven.

Serving Suggestion: Mix 1 tsp of sriracha with the remaining onion dip and use as a dipping sauce for the arancini.

These guys freeze extremely well, so if you want to keep some on hand for easy ready-to-cook snacks, tuck the arancini into a freezer-safe container immediately after rolling in panko. (Put them in there gently so you don’t rub off the panko coating!) Add an extra 5 minutes when cooking from frozen, baking for 20 minutes total.

we heartsters – What is your favorite dish from the recipe box of your Nonna (Grandmother)?

photos: Heather for we heart this

Heather is a midwesterner living in Los Angeles and enjoys concocting weird flavor combinations and exploring delicious ethnic foods. She blogs at foodforfunandpleasure and knows her way around the spice cabinet like nobody’s business.

7 thoughts on “Not Your Nonna’s Arancini Recipe”

  1. Yay! More yummy Italian food to make us happy! These little darlings look good and sure easy to make! I love it! Will give them a whirl soon! Here in, still sunny and warm SOCAL we grow our own chili peppers along with various Thai chili peppers too, which will make it’s way into this instead of using sriracha. Thanks for this scrumptious recipe @Heather!

  2. Somehow, after growing up on the East Coast and living a few years in Philadelphia, I’ve had many great Italian dishes – but somehow never had arancini? But I need to change that fast! These look so good Heather – rice, onion dip, gouda, garlic – all equals yum! They look like they would make a great app for a dinner party too!

  3. I always wanted a Nonna. But I’m not Italian :( I would have settled for any relative that could boil water without burning the pot.

    These look AMAZING–I mean, you really can’t go wrong with anything filled with molten cheese, amirite?

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