The arancino of Catania: history of secrets of the king of taste!

Come and discover everything about the arancino of Catania, the undisputed king of the liveliest and most heated taste!

Ancient Theatre of Taormina

The taste appears at the threshold of the mouth and then, decisive and impetuous, here it explodes. Crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, the arancino is the king of Catania’s typical dishes. A long tradition that is still handed down from generation to generation today.

The arancino is so well known, loved and debated that even the Accademia della Crusca intervened on the matter.

Arancina or Arancino?

How is it called: arancina or arancino? What is the right term? The Accademia della Crusca expressed itself as follows: 

The tasty Sicilian rice ball owes its name to the analogy with the round and golden fruit of the orange, that is, the orange, so it could be concluded that the correct gender is the female one: arancina. But it’s not that simple.

Thus, in order to leave no one unhappy, the name arancina was attributed to the city of Palermo and the term arancino to the city of Catania. One thing is certain: in Sicilian dialect we say.

The Arabs, rice and oranges: the origins of the name

The Arabs, who dominated Sicily between the 9th and 11th centuries, had a particular culinary habit: they rolled up rice flavored with saffron using the palm of their hand, shared it with lamb meat and gave it a spherical shape. But there was another custom loved by the Arabs: they used to call the meatballs with a name that could refer to a fruit of similar size. This is where the arancino owes its name to the juicy and fresh orange.

Something to know: at the time, the plain of Catania was the largest rice field in southern Italy.

The tasty typical recipe of the arancino

The original version of the arancino recipe, the one handed down by the grandmothers of Catania, includes tomato sauce, horse meat and peas.

These are the ingredients for the filling:

  • A carrot
  • A celery stalk
  • An onion
  • 500 grams of mixed meat of beef and pork, or horse meat in small pieces
  • 200 grams of tomato paste
  • Two bottles of tomato sauce
  • 200 grams of peas
  • 250 grams of caciocavallo cheese
  • Salt and pepper.

These are the ingredients for the rice:

  • 500 grams of rice
  • A knob of butter
  • Two sachets of saffron
  • 50 grams of grated pecorino or Parmigiano

For the breading you need breadcrumbs and two eggs.

The execution of the recipe is rather complicated. Shall we start? Sautee the celery, carrots and onion, add the tomato sauce and cook it for several hours over low heat. Prepare the meat stew and, after having browned it and blended it with the wine, cook it together with the sauce. Then add the peas. Cook the rice with the saffron, stir in the butter and grated pecorino (or Parmesan), then flatten it to cool.

And now the time has come to form the arancini. Take a layer of rice with wet hands, work it a little to make it malleable but without letting it fall apart, then put your hand in the shape of a cone, place the rice on it and flatten it with the other hand. Fill the form with the sauce, a few pieces of horse meat, peas and caciocavallo cheese and top it all off with more rice. Compact and define the shape.

A little trick: putting your hands in prayer and turning the arancino will help you to give it the traditional shape, slightly pointed at the top and with a flat base. Now beat the egg with a fork, put the arancino in and then bread it in breadcrumbs. Here we are: drop it in hot oil and hear how it fizzes, crackles and fills the air with its irresistible scent.

The fantastic variations of the arancino

There are many exquisite variations proposed for the Catania arancino. What can change is the filling. There are those who love it with ham, some with hard-boiled egg and some with ricotta. Then there is what is considered the arancino alla Catanese, an alternative and equally tasty recipe that includes the filling of Emmental and fried aubergines.

Whichever variant you enjoy – and we recommend that you test them all! – one thing is certain: the arancino will become your sweet and tasty obsession.


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