This recipe is a take on traditional Sicilian arancini rice balls by turning it into 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 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 the rice balls the traditional way, I have to cut back on fried foods, so 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.
Arancini Rice Ball 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
How To Make Rice Ball 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 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:
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.