This recipe has the great taste of traditional Sicilian arancini rice balls but in an easy-to-make casserole of arborio rice stuffed with meat and peas. Delicious!
I am a huge fan of Arancini. If you aren’t familiar with arancini, it is a traditional Sicilian dish. They are rice balls that are stuffed with meat, cheese, and peas, then coated with egg and breadcrumbs and deep-fried.
Growing up, I remember one of my Sicilian father’s favorite meals was a rice casserole. It was rice mixed with sauce and tiny meatballs. It was in remembering that dish that gave me the idea to see if an arancini casserole would work.
As much as I love eating rice balls the traditional way, I have to cut back on fried foods. With this recipe, I am able to enjoy the great taste of arancini but in the form of a casserole – no deep frying required – and it is gluten-free.
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I am so glad I tried it because it was a big hit. My husband went back for seconds – and then thirds! I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it this way and I didn’t end up missing the golden fried crust at all.
Sicilian Rice Casserole
I used Arborio rice, just as I would if making traditional rice balls. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s the type of rice used in making risotto.
Do you have to use Arborio rice?
I would, if at all possible, although I have made rice balls before with Jasmine rice, which is a long-grain rice, and had great success. I would avoid instant rice, however. Arborio and Jasmine work well because of the creamy, sticky consistency and instant rice just doesn’t have that.
1 lb ground beef
3 cup Arborio rice cooked
2 eggs beaten
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups tomato sauce (homemade or store-bought)
1 cup frozen peas
1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1 tsp minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
9 x 13 baking dish
Large mixing bowl
How To Make An Arancini Casserole
Begin by cooking the Arborio rice according to the instructions on the package. This usually takes about 25 minutes and requires your constant attention.
Once the rice is cooked, set it aside to allow it to cool a bit. I usually mix in a pat of butter to keep it creamy.
Go ahead and preheat the oven to 400°F. Completely coat the sides and bottom of your 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Heat the olive oil in your skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, breaking up the meat as you saute for about 3 minutes. Add in your minced onion, garlic, and salt & pepper, mixing well. Then, stir in the frozen peas.
Add in one cup of sauce, combining and cooking until the meat is browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice with 2 beaten eggs, half the pecorino cheese, and 2 cups of tomato sauce.
Pour half of the rice mixture into the greased baking pan, spreading the rice from edge to edge. Add your meat mixture on top of the rice, spreading it evenly over the entire bed of rice. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella over the meat mix. Cover with the remaining rice mixture, again evenly spreading from edge to edge.
Put it in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Carefully remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle it with the remaining pecorino and mozzarella cheeses. Continue to bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese melts and starts to turn golden.
Cut into squares (like lasagna) and serve with additional sauce over top of the individual pieces, if desired.
If you like this Italian recipe, be sure to check out some of my others:
Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Artichoke Pesto Pasta
Pasta with Rapini and Sausage
If you are a fan of arancini, or if you are looking for a hearty and satisfying Italian main course, you are going to love this rice ball casserole that is stuffed to perfection with meat and peas.
If you have given this recipe a try, please leave a comment below and let me know how you liked it.
Arancini Rice Ball Casserole
- 1 lb ground beef
- 3 cup Arborio rice cooked
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cups tomato sauce
- 1 cup peas frozen
- 1½ cup mozzarella cheese shredded
- ¼ cup pecorino romano cheese grated
- 1 tsp minced onion
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- salt & pepper to taste
- Additional tomato sauce if desired
- Cook Arborio rice according to package and set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat sides and bottom of 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef, sauteing and breaking up the meat for 3 minutes. Add in minced onion, garlic, and salt & pepper, mixing well. Stir in peas. Add in 1 cup of sauce, combining and cooking until meat is browned. Remove from heat.
- In large mixing bowl, combine rice with 2 beaten eggs, half the pecorino cheese, and 2 cups of sauce.
- Pour half the rice mixture into the greased baking pan, spreading rice from edge to edge. Add meat mixture on top of the rice, and spread evenly. Sprinkle half mozzarella over meat mix. Cover with remaining rice mixture, evenly spreading from edge to edge. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Carefully remove from oven and sprinkle with the remaining pecorino and mozzarella cheese. Continue to bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese starts to turn golden.
- Cut into squares and serve with additional sauce over top of individual pieces, if desired.
18 thoughts on “Sicilian Rice Casserole”
Is that 3 cups of rice AFTER cooking, or three cups of raw rice that has been cooked?
We had an exchange teacher from Sicily when I was a child (he replaced our Latin 2 teacher, and my mom taught Latin 1). He invited our family to dinner, and his wife made aranchini. We fell in love, but this is a whole heckuva lot less work. I am looking forward to trying it.
Three cups of cooked rice. 🙂
You should really edit your recipe to say 3 C cooked rice. There is a big difference in that and how you wrote 3 C rice cooked
When I make rice balls, I add eggs, Romano Cheese, bread crumbs to rice mixture. Makes the rice balls hold together better. These recipes seem to fall apart when cut into.
This casserole will hold it’s form, especially if it is well-packed in the dish before baking.
Let it rest for 15 minutes to help it stay together- just like lasagna
I accidentally put in two cups of tomato sauce in meat mixture, will it still come out ok
It should just be a bit saucier but I don’t think the texture will change too much. Please let us know how it turned out 🙂
Exactly what I was looking for to recreate a family recipe. 🙂 Does this freeze well? We are a two person household and I’d like to divide it into two 8×8 pans and freeze one. Otherwise I’ll just try to halve the ingredients. Thank you!
It does freeze well!
I used some of my own Passata but I did not add herb so it turns out blend so my next time I will add herbs to spruce it up. will do again
This dish takes me back. So good!
Is the tomato sauce you used seasoned or unseasoned? Also, can this be made a few hours ahead of time, refrigerated, then baked? Thank you!
I have always used my own homemade tomato sauce that is already seasoned. This dish can definitely be made ahead of time and baked when you need it. Enjoy!
I am using the plastic container of Arborio rice that’s pictured (rice select is the brand) and there is only a recipe for risotto on the back-with shallots and Parmesan and chicken stock. There aren’t any directions for cooking just the rice. Am I supposed to first make risotto and use that? It would seem to make it “sloppy “ by adding in an egg and more cheese. …and a lot more work to make risotto and then a casserole with said risotto. Maybe you can clarify this? Arborio is a type of rice and risotto is an actual dish so simply cooking Arborio and making risotto are 2 different things and I’m not sure which is required
Hi Tara, you can cook Arborio just as you would regular rice. Boil 2.5 cups of salted water in a heavy saucepan, and add in 1.5 cups of the uncooked rice. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.