While rice is a worldwide commodity, it has been able to keep a distinct taste in every culture – just consider Asian rice bowls, Spanish paella and Italian risotto. But, Italians have taken this versatile ingredient to the next level by adding their own twist, as they do with everything.
Many types of rice balls are adored all around the world, with arancini and suppli being two popular ones, both originating from Italy. Though arancini and suppli are both delicious, they have subtle differences in their ingredients, shape, size, and taste!
Essentially, there is not much difference between Rice balls and arancini as both are made from rice and rolled into a sort of ball formation. You could say that “rice balls” is just the westernised name for these delicious balls of goodness, But, if we want to get technical, what we call rice balls would otherwise be called suppli or suppli al telefono by Italians.
To understand their differences let’s break each one down.
Arancini translates to little oranges, a reference to their rotund and golden appearance, while supplì al telefono is a play on the lengthy telephone cord-like strings of mozzarella that emerge when you bite into the balls.
The typical arancino is prepared from rice cooked in broth that is then breaded and fried into a ball or cone with a diameter of approximately 8-10cm, stuffed with meat sauce, peas, and caciocavallo cheese.
Although the preparation of arancini is very similar to that of supplì there are two significant distinctions. Arancini are generally considerably larger than supplì, about twice the size. An arancino is more likely to be stuffed with ragù (or peas and prosciutto) rather than having it incorporated into the rice. The layers of an arancino are quite unique. The crust has a golden straw tint, and beneath it lies a layer of yellow rice with a touch of saffron added for colour.
Arancini appear to have a lot more history than supplì. After the tenth century Arab conquest of Sicily, rice and saffron arrived on the island. Peasants would form balls out of leftover rice with whatever else they had on hand and fry them for supper. The spherical balls were reminiscent of the ubiquitous oranges that grow on the island, and as a result, they were born. Arancini are still marketed as an all in one meal in bars and fry shops in Sicily rather than as an appetizer at restaurants.
I know what you’re thinking, where can I find some amazing arancini at an italian restaurant near me ? Well, we are here to help ! Our Italian restaurant Sydney makes the best Arancini that will transport you to a pizzeria in Italy with just one bite, head into your local Italian Street Kitchen to be blown away!
Suppli are a Roman specialty that are frequently served as antipasti in pizzerias. They’re formed in an oblong shape, different to that of arancini.
Originally, Roman chefs would use pieces of offal like chicken liver to make the croquettes’ batter, however today’s supplì alla Romana is made in rosso — which means the rice is cooked with a little tomato sauce and occasionally ground beef — with a molten mozzarella heart at their center. When the supplì is broken apart, the melted cheese spreads from one piece to another, mimicking the cord and receiver of an old-fashioned phone.
Suppli comes from the French term “surprise,” which was given to the time when Rome was captured and ruled by Napoleon and his troops. According to legend, the French were taken aback by the mozzarella inside the suppli, and so the name remained.
The Romans are rightly proud of their amazing creation, as they are considered to be one of Rome’s first “street foods,” being sold by vendors on street corners. Supplì al Telefono, have stolen the hearts of many, it’s a flavour you just can not get enough of. Today, suppli can be found in pizzerias and restaurants all around Rome!
So back to the initial question… The difference between rice balls and arancini is similar to none, their taste is unbeatable and they are actually not that hard to make either !
Whether you’re in the mood for an all-in-one meal like an arancino or a cheesy snack on the run like a suppli, now that you’ve learnt about the distinctions, which rice ball will you try next time you are at the best italian restaurant?