Fried rice balls are a delicious part of Italian cuisine but, as with many fried foods, you may be concerned about the amount of calories this particular treat may contain. According to a number of sources, eating one portion of Italian rice balls will contribute around 240 calories to your daily intake, although this figure depends on the exact recipe that is being followed.
Italy: Home of rice balls or arancini
The Italian word for the breadcrumb-coated fried rice balls that form part of many regional cuisines is Arancini (ar-an-chee-nee). The term derives from the Italian word arancia which means 'orange' and is based on the idea that rice balls look like little oranges.
Arancini are thought to originate from the Island of Sicily, and generally consist of an outer layer of breadcrumbs with an inner filling of rice, ragú (a tomato-based meat sauce), mozzarella and sometimes peas.
In Rome, a popular variation is the Supplì, which is almost identical to the Sicilan Arancini, but usually has a simpler rice, tomato sauce and mozzarella based filling.
Supplì are often served as at pizzerie or 'pizza parlours', and specifically in establishments that offer pizza al taglio- a type of 'fast food' pizza baked in large rectangular trays and sold by weight, and popular across Italy.
So exactly how many calories are in my fried Italian rice ball?
As I mentioned earlier, it really depends on the recipe being adhered to, with everything from the amount of cheese to the type of breadcrumbs having an effect on the calorie count of a rice ball, not to mention the size of the rice ball itself!
One website, sparkpeople.com, boasts a recipe that has a calorie count of 254, whilst about.com has an Arancini recipe that is as low as 230 calories. Having examined a few different recipes, I'd say that the average is somewhere between these two figures, at around 240 calories per rice ball.