Rocco DiSpirito's Unfried Rice Balls 'Arancini'

The chef's healthy version of this Sicilian dish features lots of fresh mozzarella

Photo: Courtesy Rocco Dispirito

Since fried foods may rule on Super Bowl Sunday, Rocco DiSpirito's un-fried rice balls are a great addition to your menu. They still taste delicious – and look just as good as their fried counterparts – but have way less fat and calories.

To keep his arancini tasty, the Now Eat This! star uses brown rice and egg whites, plus panko bread crumbs, fresh cheeses and marinara sauce for dipping. Consider this one a winner!

Un-Fried Rice Balls “Arancini”

Makes 12

* ½ cup short-grain brown rice

* 1 tsp. saffron threads

* Salt

* ½ oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

* Freshly ground black pepper

* 1½ oz. fresh mozzarella

* ¼ cup whole wheat flour

* 2 large egg whites, whisked until foamy

* 1 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs, such as Ian's All Natural

* ¼ cup no sugar added marinara sauce, such as Trader Joe's

1. Preheat the oven to 375º.

2. Put the rice in a blender, food processor or coffee grinder and pulse the machine on and off in 2-second intervals until the rice is broken up into pieces about half of their original size.

3. Put the rice into a 2-quart sauce pot and add 1¼ cups water and the saffron. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium, season very lightly with salt, cover and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

4. Scrape the rice into a stainless steel mixing bowl using a rubber spatula and add the Parmigiano; season with salt and pepper. Place in the freezer to cool for about 4 minutes.

5. Cut the mozzarella into 12 equal bite-size nuggets. Remove the rice mixture from the freezer and form into 12 equal-size loose balls. Next, take each ball and gently push a piece of mozzarella into the center; form the rice back into a tight ball, sealing in the mozzarella entirely. Repeat with the rest of the rice and mozzarella and place the balls in the freezer again to tighten up for about 2 minutes.

6. Place the flour, egg whites and panko in 3 separate shallow bowls. Lightly season the panko and the flour with salt and pepper.

7. Pull the balls out of the freezer, and in batches of 3, first coat the finished rice balls with the flour, knocking off any excess, then dip them into the egg whites to coat evenly, then roll them into the panko. Place your finished arancini on a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. Continue coating the rice balls until they are all breaded. Place them in the oven and cook until the panko is toasted and crisp, about 6 minutes.

8. Heat the tomato sauce in a saucepan while the arancini are baking and divide it among 4 small dipping dishes. Remove the arancini from the oven, place 4 pieces each on 4 small plates, and serve with the sauce.

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