History of Arancini

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Still a Mystery

The history of arancini as well as many other typical Sicilian meals still remain veiled in mystery and folk tales. It seems the first documented form of arancini date back to the 19th century. Surprisingly, the first arancini were sweet and were made using ingredients such as ricotta cheese, sugar, spices, and milk. With the arrival of ingredients from the “New World” everything changed.

Tomato, one of the most prominent “new” products revolutionized the cuisine; after being cooked into sauce, recipes using tomato started to multiply. Thanks to this radical change, arancini started to be predominantly salty “with ragù”.

10th Century12th Century17th Century
They are said to have originated in Sicily in the 10th century during Arab rule. They served a large serving bowl of saffron-infused rice with plates of meat and vegetables shared between a table. 
“Rice balls” were breaded and fried, brought along on long trips since they were easily transportable and filling. 
In Palermo and Trapani, Sicily, arancini are a traditional food for the feast of Santa Lucia, 13 December, when bread and pasta are not eaten. This commemorates arrival of a grain supply ship on Santa Lucia’s day in 1646, relieving a severe famine.