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What is an Arancini? A Delicious Sicilian Street Food Snack

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If you visit Sicily, you will surely see a lot of street food and inexpensive meals typical of Sicilian cuisine. If you plan to visit Sicily, prepare for Italy’s tastiest and cheapest food. Some of these “Street food” type meals called in Italian antipasti rustici siciliano are called sfincione, ravazzate, cartocciate, scacce, rollò con wurstel and the star of this article: l’arancina, le arancine, l’arancino or gli arancini. What is an arancini? What is arancino? Arancina or Arancino. How do I say it correctly? Do all these different names refer to the same thing? What does Arancini mean? Arancini origin. And what are they made of?

How to Say Arancini (VIDEO)

Before talking about this famous street food, let’s see how Italians say “Arancini” in Italian.

What is an Arancini, and How Do You Say Arancini in Italian? Watch this video and listen to examples of Italians ordering this Sicilian delicacy.

What is Arancini?

Let’s talk about the best Sicilian snack. Arancia means orange, referring to the orange fruit as a feminine noun and the color orange. If the orange fruit is small, it is called “arancina“, also feminine. Therefore, accompanied by the article, it would be “l’arancina” in the singular and “le arancine” in the feminine plural. In part, this may answer the question, What Does Arancini Mean? It refers to how the arancini look like a small orange.

However, here is the main difference between Arancina and Arancino. Generally, the term “arancina” (the Italian feminine form) is used in Palermo and the western regions of Sicily. The Palermo-style arancina is round, truly Sicilian rice balls, like an orange.

Arancino” is the masculine form, which, when accompanied by the article, is called l’arancino (the abbreviated form of “lo + arancino”). Therefore, the corresponding masculine plural following the grammatical rule of the Italian language is gli arancini (like the famous episode of Inspector Montalbano “Gli Arancini di Montalbano“, which refers to this popular Sicilian recipe). Therefore, you should ask, “What are arancini?” because arancini (plural) refers to more than one arancino (singular).

The masculine form “arancino” is popular in Catania, Syracuse, Ragusa, and the eastern parts of the island. And the most interesting thing, beyond what it is called, is the shape of the arancini. The shape of the arancini can be different when crossing the other cities of Sicily. In Catania and its surroundings, the arancino takes the shape of a cone, pointed, resembling the shape of the Etna volcano located in Catania.

Other interesting points about the arancini (besides the tasty and varied fillings you can find) are that:

  • The Arancino is very inexpensive. They cost from 1,50 to 3 euros each.
  • You can eat them hot or cold, and they are equally tasty.
  • The Arancino has stuffing. The fillings can be vegetarian, vegan, and non-vegetarian. In Sicily, there is a large consumption and production of vegetables. So, there are a lot of vegetarian dishes.
  • Some Arancini are gluten-free if prepared with gluten-free bread crumbs. The native population of Sicily has a high rate of food intolerances (to gluten, lactose, etc.), so you will find many products in supermarkets and Sicilian restaurants without gluten or lactose (or both gluten and lactose-free). It would be best to ask in the stores and restaurants to find this specific food or ingredients.
  • Arancini are typical of the Sicilian region. You will hardly find arancini in the other areas of Italy outside Sicily. And if you find them, I hope a Sicilian cook prepares them because I have not been able to taste a decent arancino in any other region of Italy, neither in Rome nor in Firenze. The best Arancini are in Sicily. Besides, the different areas of Italy are not used to prepare food from other regions.
  • The name “arancini” is specific to Sicilian cuisine and is widely used in Italy and internationally to refer to this popular dish. However, in northern Italy, a similar dish made of rice balls is called “supplì”, although the filling is different (only cheese).

What Is Arancino and What Is Made From

What Is Arancino and What Is Made From? The masculine form “arancino” refers to filled deep-fried rice balls and is popular in eastern Sicily. Arancino has a conical shape in eastern Sicily as a reminder of the Etna Volcano, in Catania. The plural form of the noun Arancino is Arancini.

While the name “arancini” refers to the shape and appearance of the dish, it has become synonymous with the specific preparation of fried rice balls filled with various ingredients.

What Is Arancino Made From? Depending on the Sicilian regional variations and personal preferences, these fillings can include meat, cheese, vegetables, or various ingredients.

There is a widespread belief among tourists that it is made from leftover rice, but that is not true. In fact, the rice used to prepare an arancino is a particular variety, generally without butter, so that it sticks together and the rice ball does not fall apart when eaten.

The most common ingredients used in arancini include Arborio cooked rice (only sticky rice), cheese (such as Caciocavallo or Parmesan), meat (such as ground beef or sausage prepared as tomato sauce ragù with onions, peas, etc.), vegetables in combination with cheese, ham, and cheese, swordfish, calamari, varieties of vegetables such as peas, mushrooms, and eggplants), herbs and spices (not spice) such as saffron to color the rice (yellow rice). Saffron is a vegetable, so it is a great natural way to color foods, such as yellowing the arancini rice and giving a tasty flavor.

These ingredients are combined, shaped into balls or cones, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried until golden and crispy. The result is a mouthwatering snack that is crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

what is arancino

What Is the Origin of Arancini in Sicilian Cuisine?

The arancino is a typical Sicilian dish and one of the island’s most popular specialties. The origin of arancino is closely linked to Sicily’s history and culinary influences over the centuries.

The history of arancino dates back to Arab domination in Sicily, which took place between the 8th and 11th centuries.

The Arabs introduced rice to the island and developed a cooking technique that consisted of stuffing the rice with various ingredients, such as meat, vegetables, and spices, and then frying it. This technique is the basis for preparing the arancini we know today.

Initially, arancini were a dish reserved for special occasions, such as religious festivals or weddings. Over the centuries, their popularity grew and became a commonly consumed food, spread throughout Sicily and outside the island.

Today, arancini are prepared with different filling variations, including beef, meat sauce, ham, cheese, aubergine, fish, and spinach. Each area of Sicily has its own specialties and traditional recipes for arancini.

Arancini on the TV: Inspector Montalbano and The White Lotus Season 2

If you watch the TV series Inspector Montalbano and The White Lotus Season 2, you are probably familiar with Arancini.

In Inspector Montalbano, we usually see how Salvo Montalbano tastes the most exquisite dishes of the typical Sicilian cuisine, and one of them is the arancini that we see in the episode Gli Arancini di Montalbano.

If you want to learn How to Make Montalbano Arancini Recipe at home, I recommend you read the following post: Montalbano Arancini Recipe Easy Way (Sicilian Rice Balls)

Meanwhile, in the HBO TV series, The White Lotus season 2, entirely shot in Sicily, we see plenty of drinks, cocktails, and typical Sicilian dishes, such as the arancini that Portia and Jack taste in Palermo, in episode 5. Although we don’t see them eating the arancini, Jack explains to Portia what these Sicilian rice balls are, assuring her that she will love Arancini. Then Portia finds them surprisingly tasty.

what is an arancini
Portia and Jack eat Arancini in Palermo. The White Lotus, Season 2, Episode 5, That’s Amore.

Why the Arancino Is a Popular Sicilian Snack

Arancini is a popular Sicilian snack for several reasons. Firstly, it is incredibly delicious. The combination of flavors from the various ingredients creates a savory and satisfying bite. The crispy exterior provides a satisfying crunch, while the creamy and flavorful filling adds depth to each bite. In addition, you can enjoy the arancino as a versatile snack on its own or alongside other dishes.

The arancino versatility makes it a favorite among locals and tourists alike. The type of filling is so versatile that it is suitable for all tastes. It’s also a great on-the-go meal you can eat standing up or walking. It is easy to take to the beach and eat them there, which makes it an ideal snack. It’s not heavy or greasy food (outside of the fried exterior), so I’d say it’s pretty healthy.

While it is common to make them fried, I recently tried making the arancini in the air fryer. I had excellent results when I sprayed a tiny layer of oil. So, using the air fryer is an excellent option for those who dislike frying deep.

Lastly, arancini is deeply rooted in Sicilian culinary tradition, whose popularity has spread beyond Sicily to other parts of Italy and the world.

Learn more about How to Say Arancini and Arancini di Ragù when ordering by following the link to our post.

Conclusions Regarding Sicilian Rice Balls

What is an arancino? The word “arancini” has its roots in the Italian language and is derived from the word arancia,” which means “orange” in English. The name “arancini” refers to the shape and golden color of these traditional Sicilian fried rice balls resembling small oranges.

Whether you refer to it as arancino or arancina, its mouthwatering appeal is not denied. The distinction between “arancino” and “arancina” lies in their location and shape. Generally, the term “arancina” (the Italian feminine form) is used in Palermo and is rounded rice balls.

In contrast, in the Catania region, the plural masculine term “arancini” typically takes on a more conical shape, possibly influenced by the silhouette of the volcano Mount Etna.

Arancini is a delicious Italian snack that originated in Sicily. Arancini are typically made from Arborio-type rice shaped into balls, stuffed with various fillings such as cheese, meat, or vegetables, coated in breadcrumbs, and then deep-fried until golden and crispy. They are often served as street food or appetizer in Italian restaurants. Arancini are known for their rich and flavorful taste, making them popular among food enthusiasts.

The arancino became a symbol of Sicilian cuisine and is widely appreciated in Italy and internationally. Their Arab origin and evolution in Sicilian cuisine exemplify how different cultures and culinary traditions intertwine to create unique and delicious dishes.

Give it a try! Each bite’s combination of flavors and textures is a true delight for the taste buds. Whether you’re a fan of rice, cheese, meat, or vegetables, there is an arancini flavor for everyone. Trying arancini allows you to experience a taste of Sicilian culture and tradition. It’s a snack enjoyed for generations and deeply ingrained in the region’s culinary heritage.

I am sure this “What is an Arancini” post guides you to discover this amazing Sicilian street food.


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