Recipe: Spinach and Mozzarella Arancini

Masterchef Finalist & Head Chef of the Italian Embassy in London, Danilo Cortellini, needs no introduction on The Foodie Diaries, having contributed oh-so-many of his recipes for classic Italian dishes, often cooked up with a surprise twist.

Well he’s back with another, this time for arancini (or arancine, depending on which side of Italy you’re from!) – crunchy, flavoursome, stuffed rice balls!

If you search for arancine, you’ll find plenty of different versions varying in terms of their shape and stuffing (sometimes even with pistachio!). Here, Danilo has leaned towards greens with an easy vegetarian recipe which can be shaped as you’d please, either as a starter or smaller as canapé.  They’re ideal for sharing and if you want to save yourself some time, this recipe can also be prepared ahead of time and stored in the freezer.

Spinach And Mozzarella Arancini

Danilo Cortellini
Masterchef Finalist & Head Chef of the Italian Embassy in London, Danilo Cortellini shares an easy vegetarian recipe for classic Italian arancini – crunchy, flavoursome rice balls stuffed with spinach and mozzarella.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4


  • 250 g of Risotto rice (*see recipe notes)
  • 250 g fresh spinach (washed and drained)
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 egg
  • 20 g finely chopped onion
  • 150 g fior di latte mozzarella diced
  • 40 g grated Grana Padano (or parmesan)
  • 25 g unsalted butter
  • 1 litre vegetable oil
  • 10 ml dry white wine
  • Flour to dust
  • 2 eggs for the egg wash
  • 300 g of breadcrumbs (for extra crispiness, swap the common breadcrumbs for Japanese Panko)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Start by cooking the rice base as if it was a risotto.
  • In a large casserole, start to roast the rice on a low heat with a pinch of salt, without adding oil or fat. In this way, the heat reaches the core of each rice grain resulting in more uniform al dente rice. Keep stirring the rice, so the rice does not catch on the bottom of the pan or burn. When the rice is very hot, pour the white wine in. Let the alcohol evaporate, set the cooking time to 15 minutes and add the simmering stock a ladle at a time, little by little. Stir the rice occasionally, and keep cooking. 
  • While the rice is cooking gently fry the chopped onion in a pan on low heat with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt for about 10 minutes, until well golden. Now add the spinach to the pan and season to taste. Cook for 1 minute and remove from the heat.
  • When the cooking time of the rice is almost finished, add the spinach and onion to it and stir well. Once the cooking time of the risotto is up, if you’re happy with the texture remove it from the heat, add the butter, the grated Grana Padano cheese and the egg and stir well. Season to taste and let the rice cool down in a large tray.
  • Once cold, create with your hands rice balls of about 40/50 gm each and remember to put abundant diced mozzarella in the middle of each of them for the extra ooze effect. You can shape them as you please really !
  • Once all are ready let them set for 30 minutes in the fridge and then roll them gently into the flour. Following the flour, each Arancino should be dipped into the seasoned egg wash and ultimately coated evenly with breadcrumbs.
  • Now deep fry the rice balls in vegetable oil at 160 degrees, until well golden. Season with a touch of salt, and serve hot with a garnish of baby spinach and crushed avocado.


* Chef’s tip: Most risotto grains will work for this recipe, like Carnaroli and Arborio but if you want to be safe, go for the constancy of “risotto rice” by Riso Gallo.
Keyword arancini, danilo cortellini recipes, easy italian recipes, Easy Vegetarian Recipes, vegetarian Italian recipes

About Danilo:

Born in Abruzzo – a small region of Italy rich in culinary tradition – Danilo Cortellini was always destined to become a chef. Travelling through Italy, he worked with Michelin-starred restaurants such as San Domenico and Perbellini, before going on to work at three Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse restaurants in London, eventually becoming Head Chef at the Italian Embassy. In 2015 Danilo took part in MasterChef: The professionals and made it to the final.  | Connect with Danilo on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Explore more of Danilo’s recipes

We’d love to hear from you! Do let us know if you try this recipe – you can leave a comment below and/ or tag us in your delicious creations on Instagram @the_foodiediaries.

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