These baked pumpkin arancini are so flavorful and comforting with a gooey cheese center. A great appetizer or snack perfect for a festive party, game day and more.
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October is well and truly in flow which means, here in the US at least, pumpkin season is as well. For many, that seems to more mean 'pumpkin spice' everything and anything. Even if pumpkin itself is used, it's often for sweet goods (not that they are bad, of course, like pumpkin empanadas and healthy pumpkin scones).
However pumpkin can also be enjoyed in many savory dishes as well, like these delicious baked pumpkin arancini.
What are arancini?
Arancini are Sicilian balls of risotto usually filled with mozzarella and coated with crisp breadcrumbs. Traditionally they are deep fried - it's a street food so not so surprising - but here they are baked to be that bit healthier (and I think easier as well).
Rather than a plain risotto, I have made a pumpkin version which is smooth and delicious. It's worth making a decent sized batch and enjoying it one day as a regular risotto then making the rest into arancini the next day.
Arancini are often enjoyed with marinara sauce as an appetizer/snack, and these would be great as part of a game day, Halloween or other festive spread.
If you press little stems of sage, thyme or rosemary in the top (as in photos), you can make them look more like mini-pumpkins to be even more in the spirit!
They're perfect to use up any leftovers from a previous meal, and also make a tasty snack. We've had them as part of lunch and everyone has happily enjoyed them. After all, there's lots of cheese and comfort factor. And as a bonus, they sneak in a bit of vegetables with the pumpkin in there.
Tips to make arancini less work!
While it might seem like these take quite a while to prepare, as I say, if you make enough to have it both as a regular risotto and some leftover for the arancini, it doesn't seem bad and you get two meals for the same work. You can also split the work up into chunks since it's best to make the risotto a few hours or a day ahead in any event.
Then, you can chill the risotto balls after the initial filling and just do the breading before you bake them. I don't recommend adding the breading before as they will likely get soggy, so the breadcrumbs will either clump together or not crisp as well.
I have also kept some of the filled arancini in the fridge for a couple days to bread and bake another time and they were just as good then. Just keep them covered and ideally slightly separated to avoid sticking.
These pumpkin arancini are pretty filling between the risotto itself and with the gooey mozzarella inside but they are still all too tempting to come back for more. They have that comfort factor and make for a delicious appetizer or snack. Then make them fun, too, when you dress them up to look more pumpkin-like. Either way, they're perfect for parties and more.
Try these other cheesy finger foods:
- Pesto goat cheese filo parcels
- Caprese eggplant roll ups
- Scallop chorizo stacks
- Plus get more appetizer recipes in the archives.
Baked pumpkin arancini (risotto balls)
For pumpkin risotto
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves garlic or 1 large
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 ½ cups arborio rice
- ¼ cup white wine or vermouth
- 3 cups light stock chicken/vegetable
- salt and pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg optional
- ¾ cup pumpkin puree canned or fresh using roasted, pureed pumpkin
- ½ cup parmesan finely grated
To form arancini
- 8 oz mozzarella
- 2 eggs or 3, as needed
- ½ cup flour approx
- 1 cup fine breadcrumbs approx
For risotto (ahead of time)
- Dice the onion fairly small and crush or finely chop the garlic.
- Put a pan on a medium heat and add the butter to the pan. Soften the onion in the butter for 2-3 mins, add garlic, cook another 2-3 mins until onion starting to brown slightly but stir regularly so it doesn't burn.
- Add the rice and cook briefly to ensure well coated by the butter. Then add the wine/vermouth and stir as the liquid is absorbed.
- Add the stock a bit at a time so that you cover the rice as you top it up (around ½ to 1 cup at a time), adding more as the last is absorbed. Season with a little salt and pepper. Stir now and again as the rice cooks - I generally only stir as liquid is absorbed initially but then a little more towards the end when it tends to stick to the bottom more. In all it takes around 20mins.
- Once all the stock is absorbed, check rice is cooked (if not then add a little more stock) then add the nutmeg, pumpkin puree and parmesan. Remove from heat, ensure the cheese and pumpkin are mixed through and leave to cool then refrigerate). Up to here can be done a day ahead and refrigerated overnight. It's worth at least making a good couple hours ahead ot cool properly.
To form arancini
- When ready to form arancini, preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
- Dice the mozzarella into small cubes, around ⅓in/1cm across.
- Take slightly heaped tablespoonfuls of the rice mixture and flatten it in your hand then place a piece of mozzarella in the middle and fold the rice around the cheese, ensuring there are no gaps. Roll slightly in your hand to help form a smooth joined-up outside. This can be done a few hours ahead as well and refrigerated.
- Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl, and place the flour and breadcrumbs in two more bowls - it can be easier to do part at a time and top up as you go.
- Roll each rice ball in the flour, gently shake to remove excess flour, then roll in the egg so that it is coated, allow excess to drip off, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Repeat until all the arancini are coated.
- Place the arancini on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake for approx 8-10min until the breadcrumbs are lightly crisp and just starting to brown.
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