This giant stuffed arancini is an almost perfect copycat for the one you can always find on the menu at Scopa Italian Roots, one of my fave L.A. restaurants. Scopa is owned by Chef Antonia Lofosa, one of my culinary heroes, who you might remember from Top Chef, as a judge on Cutthroat Kitchen, and many, many other Food Network shows.
Chef Antonia’s signature giant stuffed arancini is beyond crispy — with a shell of delicously crunchy fried rice on the outside and stuffed with a mixture of ground beef and peas on the inside. The whole thing is served in a bowl of spaghetti sauce and topped with even more shredded cheese.
When you crack into one of these giant arancini with the edge of a fork, a pool of melty cheese comes oozing out followed by a cloud of steam, a sure sign that they’re fresh out of the fryer. What’s not to love?
One of the real bummers about moving out of L.A. in the middle of the pandemic was not being able to treat ourselves to a final meal at Scopa. So when the restaurant announced the launch of DIY at-home meal kits to create your favorite menu items at home, you know I jumped at the chance to order their arancini kit for Jimmy for the holidays.
Even though I know we put a lot of work into figuring out the right measurements ourselves and testing different ingredients, it does feel a bit weird to have gotten a head start with instructions from the restaurant itself. The kit is amazing, Scopa is amazing, Chef Antonia is amazing, and in no way do I want this to take anyone away from supporting restaurants, especially now.
Since Jimmy and I developed our copycat recipe — which is almost identical, with a little bit of our own spin — from the kit instructions, I do want to give a quick review of the kit here.
But, since I’m not sure how long Scopa will continue offering DIY kits, well, let’s get to the review and the recipe.
what’s inside scopa’s arancini kit
Scopa’s arancini kit comes with 3 pre-made giant arancini, vacuum sealed and ready to be fried. It also comes with all of the individual components needed, each individually vacuum packed, to shape 3 additional arancini by hand. Yes, including chopped fresh parsley and the meat mixture (pre-cooked), and the rice already mixed with eggs, cheese, and rice.
Literally the only “cooking” the kit asks you to do is when you fry the arancini. The only ingredient you need to provide yourself is the frying oil. Everything else is pre-cooked, pre-mixed, and ready for assembly. The kit even includes a thermometer for checking your oil temperature.
As intimidating as we expected the arancini to be, they were so much fun to make and also a lot easier to make than anticipated. And when you crack into one and all that steam comes burbling out with melted cheese… oh it’s so satisfying.
The written instructions in the kit are clear and helpful, and Chef Antionia has even recorded a video (the “virtual” aspect of the kit) demoing how to shape the arancini here.
A warning: the shipping costs are steep (I paid $45 for shipping to Boston) because Scopa is creating and packing all the components on site and mailing them out with two day shipping for maximum freshness. But the actual cost of the kit — $109 — only seems steep until you realize that’s the cost of 6 arancini on the standard restaurant menu ($18/each). So it’s not like Scopa is marking them up for shipping.
The kits need to be refrigerated immediately and used within 4-6 days of receiving because of the fresh ingredients. But we basically ate arancini for dinner three days in a row, and then promptly went out and bought the ingredients to try making them ourselves from scratch. Zero regrets.
They’re so good, and have I mentioned they’re really fun to make?
a copycat giant stuffed arancini recipe
Our version of the giant stuffed arancini — and Jimmy deserves most of the credit for the work on this one — is almost identical to Scopa’s, with a few simple ingredient swaps. We have no way of knowing exactly what goes into their sauce and meat filling, or the ratio of their rice and cheese mixture, so we tested a bunch until we found what worked for us.
Scopa definitely uses higher quality ingredients than our recipe does, including a specific brand of pecorino cheese (called Locatelli) that is it a bit hard to find. Scopa’s arancini uses ground beef in the center, while we preferred the flavor of hot Italian sausage. And rather than attempting to replicate Scopa’s exact tomato sauce, we used leftover spaghetti sauce (recipe here).
Why use leftover spaghetti sauce? Arancini are often made from leftovers. Leftover risotto, leftover meatballs, leftover cheese, leftover spaghetti sauce, etc. And you don’t need a lot to make arancini — and what you do use, most of it is for serving. So instead of having you make spaghetti sauce from scratch in addition to having to cook the rice and the beef mixture, you can just use whatever your favorite spaghetti sauce is.
how to shape giant stuffed arancini
giant stuffed arancini FAQ
I can’t find arborio, can I use a different kind of rice?
Unfortunately, no. Arborio is a specific type of extremely starchy, sticky short grain rice. If you use a long grain rice like Jasmine or Basmati, or even a standard short grain rice, your arancini won’t hold together. Of all the short grain rices that work for arancini, arborio is by far the most common and easy to find in supermarkets. The other type of rice that can work is called carnaroli rice. You can buy arborio online here and carnaroli online here.
Can I use an air fryer?
I have no idea. I don’t have an air fryer and haven’t tried to make them in one. If you do, please let me know how it goes for you.
Can I use low-moisture mozzarella instead of the good stuff?
You can, but it doesn’t melt the same way. I’ve tried it with both and the fresh mozzarella melts a lot better than the low-moisture stuff does, making for a much more satisfying center when you cut in.
a few quick arancini recipe notes
- Arancini can be assembled by one person, but it definitely helps to have an extra set of hands. One person holds the rice mixture and molds the arancini, the other person scoops the filling for them. Jimmy has bigger hands than I do, so he does the shaping and I do the scooping. If you’re working solo, scoop the components into the measuring cups before you start assembling so they’re easy to grab.
- To quote Chef John: “Wet hands make smooth balls.” Dampen your hands before scooping the rice mixture and it won’t stick so much. Alternately, wear kitchen gloves, or line your hand with plastic wrap (the plastic wrap will also help you with the shaping if you have smaller hands.
- Pro-tip: Next time you make spaghetti sauce, save whatever’s left in the freezer for making arancini in the future.
- If you don’t have leftover spaghetti sauce: Cook 1/4 cup minced onion in oil until soft, then add one can of crushed tomatoes (in the U.S. one can = 15 oz) and season with basil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste.
- If you have extra arborio rice mixture you can make tiny golf ball sized arancini stuffed with mozzarella cheese. Use the same process, just do it on a much smaller scale.
- Cook the rice the day before so that it’s cool the next day when you go to assemble the arancini. I like setting up my Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy at night before I go to bed and letting the “keep warm” setting hold the rice overnight. In the morning I take it out and put it in a container to cool, then pop it in the fridge until I’m ready to assemble.
deep frying tips for beginners
- Make sure you’re using a heavy bottom, non reactive pot (cast iron is the exception). Avoid copper and aluminum pots, but stainless steel, cast iron, and enameled cast iron are fine.
- Use a thermometer that clips to the side of your pot so that you can monitor the temperature and adjust your burners as needed. I like this one, but a candy thermometer also works.
- Don’t walk away from your kitchen while the oil heats up — hot oil looks a lot like cold oil in the pot, it doesn’t start bubbling and boiling like water does. You might need a higher burner temp than you think to get it to the right temp, but once it’s at temp it retains heat well. You’ll likely only need the burner on low-to-medium temps to maintain the right heat while frying.
- Use a wide spider or slotted spoon to transfer your food in and out of the hot oil without splashing yourself.
- Dispose of your oil properly — don’t pour it down the drain. Use a funnel to transfer the oil (once cool) back to the bottle it came in, then throw out the sealed container. There are great tips for how to reuse oil to reduce waste here.
giant stuffed arancini (scopa copycat recipe)
- 4 cups arborio rice (cooked and cooled)
- 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- ¾ cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
- 1 large egg
- ⅔ lb hot italian sausage (2 large sausage links, casings removed)
- ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- ¼ cup red wine (optional)
- ¼ cup spaghetti sauce (use your favorite)
- ⅓ cup frozen peas
- 3 oz whole mozzarella (cut into ¼" cubes)
- ¼ cup whole milk ricotta
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- ⅛ cup finely minced parsley
- 8-10 cups peanut oil (or other neutral oil for frying)
- 4 cups marinara spaghetti sauce (use your favorite)
- finely minced parsley
- finely grated parmesan cheese
- Make the meat filling: Heat oil in skillet over medium heat until shiny. Cook sausage links, using using a wooden spoon or spatula to break them up into crumbles. Once just a few pink spots remain, add red wine and spaghetti sauce and cook until browned and little liquid remains. Stir in frozen peas. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Make the rice: Mix cooked and cooled arborio rice, parmesan and pecorino cheeses, and egg together in a bowl until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Make the breading: Combine parsley and breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl (big enough for you to fit both hands into it). Set aside.
- Measure ½ cup scoop of rice, tightly packed. Wet your hands and transfer rice into your non-dominant hand. Use your other hand to press the rice flat into your palm and fingers, creating an indentation. This is one half of the arancini.
- Scoop another tightly packed ½ cup of rice mixture into the measuring cup. Leave it in the bowl of rice mixture for now.
- Scoop ¼ cup of the meat filling into the center of the indentation and top with 1 TBSP ricotta and 3-4 cubes of mozzarella. It will seem like too much but it's not, I promise.
- Scoop the other ½ cup rice into your dominant hand. Use the knuckles of your other hand to press down to flatten and create an indentation.
- Press the rice in your dominant hand over the meat mixture, and squeeze and press the two halves together, pinching and smoothing the rice mixture out at the seams until you have a smooth ball with the meat mixture sealed inside. If the rice mixture sticks to you, dampen your hands again. If there are any gaps or holes, you can use some of the remaining rice mixture in the bowl to patch them.
- Place the arancini in the breadcrumb mixture, rolling it around to coat. Press the breadcrumbs firmly into the surface of the arancini. Set aside on a sheet pan or cutting board until ready to fry. Repeat with remaining rice, meat and cheese filling, and breadcrumbs.
- Heat oil to 325°F in large pot on the stove. The pot should be tall enough that the arancini will be submerged with at least 1" of oil above them.
- Place arancini in the hot oil one at a time, working in batches of two to give them plenty of room. Fry for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain 325°F.
- Remove from oil to paper towel lined sheet pan or cutting board.
- Spoon ¼ cup spaghetti sauce onto a plate. Place arancini in the center, top with additional grated parmesan and minced parsley. Serve hot!
- To reheat from cold: 15 minutes in a 350F oven.
- 4 cups of rice = 4 standard measuring cups of cooked arborio rice. Not the rice measuring cup that comes with your rice cooker. I don’t know what kind of measuring cup your rice cooker comes with, so I’m leaving it to you to figure out the best way to make 4 cups of cooked arborio rice. You may have extra rice left at the end.
- Recipe adapted from Scopa Italian Roots.
- Prep and cooking time doesn’t include cooking and cooling the rice.