Kapunata arancini are a bomb of flavours and textures. Rice fried balls that are filled with a savoury Maltese style kapunata.
What are arancini?
Arancini are Italian rice balls, specifically Sicilian, that are stuffed and then coated with batter and breadcrumbs. Each part of Sicily have their own typical filling and shape, which might vary. For instance, there is also a difference in the name, in the Eastern part of Sicily, example in Catania it’s called arancino, whereas in the Western part it’s called arancina. Arancini are maybe one of the most famous snacks of the ‘tavola calda’. One arancina is basically a whole meal. A rich warm fried rice ball that has a juicy savoury centre.
What goes in the arancini?
Basically, almost anything can be stuffed inside an arancina! Traditionally, sicilians like to fill their arancini with either a rich meat ragù, or mozzarella, or mozzarella and ham, or spinach, or even pistachios. Any filling which has a dense consistency works wonderfully, and of course cheese is always a good idea! Nothing beats a fresh warm arancina with a goeey cheese pull.
How to make kapunata arancini?
For this arancini recipe, I have filled them with Maltese style kapunata (caponata). You can either use store bought caponata or else do like me and use my recipe! The savoury and strong flavours of the kapunata work wonderfully with the delicate and crunchy arancina.
Making these arancini is relatively easy although they might require some labour. You first need to start with the base of the arancina: the rice. This rice is important as this is what will hug and protect that delicious filling. Below, I will explain in detail how to prepare the rice, however, you can also use any leftover risotto. The trick with the rice is that apart from getting it to a creamy consistency, is to let it sit and chill completely before starting shaping the arancini. Therefore, it’s best to either use day old leftover risotto or else, cook the rice a day before. Once the rice is cooked, I like to first mix in some grated cheese and spread it on a large baking tray so that it cools quickly and evenly.
As soon as you are ready to start making the arancini, take the rice out about 15 minutes beforehand. Take about 2 tablespoons of rice and shape in your hand to get a hollow centre. Fill the middle with a heaped tablespoon of kapunata and then gently close the filling with rice. Press the rice ball tightly! Once done, lightly drench it in the batter and afterwards in the breadcrumbs. Then place the breaded arancini on a prepared dish and place them in the fridge for not less than 2 hours or else in the freezer for one hour. This step will help with the consistency of the arancina and will stop the filling to ooze out whilst cooking.
Lastly, it’s time to fry them up! Simply heat up some oil and cook the arancini for about 5 minutes. The larger the arancina, the longer it will take to cook, so beware of how yours are shaped!
Can you make them vegan?
Yes! You can start by using a vegetable broth and vegan cheese for the rice. Secondly, you can either replace the egg in the batter with a flax egg or else remove it completely and just add more water! Then, go ahead and fill with your favourite ingredients, especially this kapunata!
Do you have to make the arancini only round shaped?
Not at all! Traditionally, they come in various shapes and sizes to distinguish their different flavours. For example, meat shaped ones tend to be cone shaped, cheese filled ones are round and so on. I chose round for these Kapunata arancini as, in my opinion, they are the easiest to make.
Can you bake the arancini instead?
Totally! Even though fried ones are extremely scrumptious, you can bake them and they will turn out incredible. You can also airfry the arancini. If you want to bake them, I suggest to do so at 190°C for about 20 minutes. If you want to cook the arancini in the air fryer, set it at 180°C and let them cook for about 15 minutes. The cooking times will vary depending of how big you make your arancini!
Can you put cheese in these kapunata arancini?
Definitely!! In my base recipe, I didn’t put any cheese as I was going for a more rich and vegetable stuffed filling. However, I have made some with kapunata and a piece of mozzarella and they turned out incredible!! The savoury kapunata paired perfectly with the sweet cheese. I have also served mine with a mint dip inspired by the gremolata, which was made out of chopped mint, lemon juice and zest, olive oil and garlic. The powerful fresh flavours of this dip brought out more the salty kapunata.
For the rice balls
- 500 g rice arborio or carnaroli
- 1,200 ml broth vegetable or chicken
- 100 g parmesan cheese grated
- 70 g butter
- 300 g kapunata/caponata
For the batter and breading
- 75 g flour
- 1 egg
- 100 ml water
- 1 tsp salt
- vegetable oil for frying
- 40 g mint chopped finely
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove minced
- juice and zest of a lemon
For the Kapunata
- Check out the detailed kapunata recipe here
- Simply mix all the ingredients together. Set aside until you're ready to serve.
- Start by cooking the rice a day before. To a large pot add the broth and let it come to a boil. Add the rice and let cook on medium heat, until all the water is absorbed by the rice. This should take about 20 minutes.
- Once ready, mix in the butter and grated cheese until everything is well combined. Spread the rice on a large baking tray, cover and let cool completely. Ideally store in the fridge overnight.
- When you want to start shaping the arancini, make sure that you have everything ready. Take the kapunata and rice out from the fridge about 15 minutes before. Prepare a tray lined with baking parchment paper.
- Take a couple of tablespoons of rice in your hand and shape them by pressing it into the hollow of your palm. Place a tablespoon of kapunata in the centre (you can also add some mozzarella). Close the filling inside tightly and shape them into a ball.
- Place each rolled arancina on the tray, repeat until you have used all the rice and kapunata.
- Prepare the batter by mixing together the flour, egg, salt and water.
- Dip each arancina ball in the batter and then in the breadcrumbs. Place on the lined baking tray, cover and place in the fridge or freeze for at least an hour. *
- In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil to 170°C/340°C. Cook each arancina one at a time, for about 5 minutes, until it has a nice golden brown colour. Drain them from excess oil on a plate with paper towels.
- Serve immediately warm! Although, be careful of the piping hot filling inside.
If you have any questions, feedback or comments on this recipe, please leave a comment below. Please also rate this recipe by double clicking on the stars below. If you did make this recipe, tag @apronandwhisk and hashtag #apronandwhisk, as I’m curious to see what you create!
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