Oven-Baked Spinach and Barley Arancini (Italian Rice Balls)

STOP EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING and make these Spinach and Barley Arancini!!!!

Oh boy. Sorry to yell at you like that. I’m just so excited about these delicious, delicious morsels!

Here’s why.

They are easy, freezable, and kid friendly. They are good for an appetizer, side, or main dish. They are a great way to use up leftovers. They are simple and crunchy and delicious, especially when dipped in a hearty portion of marinara sauce. AND they are packed with good-for-you whole grains and veggies and oven-baked, which makes them a much healthier version than traditional fried Italian arancini.

Oven Baked Spinach and Barley Arancini (Italian Rice Balls) 2

Have I convinced you yet? Are you literally RUNNING to your kitchen to begin cooking these? Hopefully by the end of this post, you will be :-) 

First things first. Have you ever hear of arancini before? I hadn’t until I had the wonderful opportunity of traveling abroad in Italy (in Sicily- specifically at Pompeii. It was VERY cool.) during grad school. I *kind of* remember what I learned… but mostly, I remember the food.

Oh, the food. Pizza and gelato at every corner. Wine from never-ending pitchers at lunch AND dinner. Pasta pasta pasta. And, these adorable and delicious fried rice balls called arancini! It’s truly a miracle that I didn’t gain 128 pounds while I was there.

Arancini (pronounced ah-rahn-CHEE-nee) means “little oranges” in Italian. Don’t be fooled: they have absolutely no oranges in them whatsoever, but rather are named for their golden color and shape.

Oven Baked Spinach and Barley Arancini (Italian Rice Balls) 3

Traditionally, arancini are made with risotto, and this would be a great way to use up leftover risotto if you happen to have some, or the time to make it (here’s my recipe for barley risotto!). Risotto is rolled into a ball, and then a hole is made in the center of the ball in which to stuff mozzarella (and pine nuts, and parsley, and other kinds of things). The rice ball is sealed up, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried until the outside is crispy and the inside is melty. 

Mmmmm. Sounds good, doesn’t it? 

It also sounds like a lot of work. This version of arancini is MUCH easier, much faster, much healthier, and less messy. And while I will admit that the fried version does taste a bit better than the baked (as it always does), the difference in taste is minimal. These are DELICIOUS!…

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