Best Rice Ball Casserole Stuffed with Meat and Peas is also known as Sicilian Arancini! Our “all-in-one” Sicilian rice ball casserole is stuffed with a blend of chopped meat, peas, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese, and baked until the mozzarella on top is melted. It is a delicious, satisfying meal for the whole family, plus, it’s freezer-friendly too!
Our Rice Ball Casserole (Arancini)…
- This is a Sicilian recipe for “arancini” only it’s made in one casserole!
- This rice ball casserole is better – because it’s baked rather than fried, and it makes clean-up a breeze!
- A casserole is much easier to put together and still enjoy the same deliciousness you get from the original rice balls.
Best Rice Ball Casserole Stuffed with Meat and Peas is a meal your whole family will love!
For our recipe, we prefer our mom’s marinara sauce, which I had on hand. But you can use your favorite store-bought sauce.
Plus, for our recipe, you will need a lot of prepared tomato sauce, about 4 cups, and more.
Our mom always made this dish into a casserole with all the same fantastic ingredients of making “arancini” Sicilian popular rice balls. Only she preferred to make it with her classic bolognese sauce and just added frozen peas to it.
If you are looking for the perfect one-dish meal containing carbs, protein, and vegetables? Then this Best Rice Ball Casserole Stuffed with Meat and Peas is it!
To Make It…
- This is a 2 step process to prepare. One is the rice mixture and the other is the meat filling.
- Plus, you will need a lot of prepared marinara sauce, and at least 4 cups. These rice balls (aka Arancini) are usually served with some extra tomato sauce on top.
- Best to use Long Grain Rice. You need sticky rice to make this casserole. NOTE: Instant rice will not work!
- You can also make this a little healthier and less fattening, you can use ground veal, chicken, or turkey, but my husband says “it’s not Sicilian if you don’t use beef! “..Lol… Either way, this is a dish everyone should try!
How to Make the Best Rice Ball Casserole Stuffed with Meat and Peas?
(*Follow along with our Step-by-Step directions, or jump down to the bottom for our full recipe card.)
1. First, cook 3 cups of rice with 6 cups of water, and follow the directions on the package, including adding some butter (2 tablespoons) and 1 teaspoon of salt to the water. When rice is cooked, transfer it to a large mixing bowl, add the additional butter, mix, and set aside to cool.
2. In the meantime, using a medium skillet, sauté chopped onion and garlic in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook the meat until browned and well cooked. Using a wooden spoon, break the chopped meat while cooking. Season with salt and pepper. Add peas and 8-ounce (1 cup) of tomato sauce (prepared marinara sauce). Simmer on low heat, covered for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (204C).
Next, in a large mixing bowl, combine rice with eggs, Pecorino cheese, and pour in 1 cup (8-ounces) of marinara sauce, and mix well. Rice will be sticky.
4. Spray one 13 x 9 casserole dish, including all four sides, with cooking spray. Add breadcrumbs to the baking dish, and roll the dish until the bottom and all sides are coated with breadcrumbs.
5. Take half of the rice mixture and cover the bottom of the dish and press down to form a layer. Then add the entire meat and peas mixture to cover the rice.
6. Spread an additional ladle (about 1/2 cup) of marinara sauce evenly over the meat and peas mixture. Then scatter with a layer of shredded mozzarella on top.
7. Add the remaining rice mixture and spread with the back of a spoon to help spread the rice evenly.
8. Top the rice with the remaining marinara sauce about 8-ounce (1 cup). Sprinkle with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top. Then top with a final layer of shredded mozzarella.
9. Cover with foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes, until the mozzarella is melted. Remove and cut into 12 squares.
Make Ahead Method…
- You can make this rice ball casserole up to 1 day ahead. Do Not Bake it.
- You will need to thaw completely on your counter, or overnight in the refrigerator.
- Also, allow the casserole to warm up to room temperature before baking, for at least 1 to 2 hours. This will ensure it will reheat evenly.
When serving, it’s best to have “extra” tomato sauce (heated) at the table when serving for those who prefer to add extra tomato sauce on top.
You can divide this recipe into 2 smaller trays and freeze one before baking. Allow the casserole to cool completely. Then cover with aluminum foil and freeze. It freezes well and for up to 1 month.
WATCH OUR VIDEO: How to Make our Rice Ball Casserole? (1-minute):
…THANKS for PINNING!
Best Rice Ball Casserole Stuffed with Meat and Peas is one of the most popular recipes on our blog!
This recipe makes an easy and fabulous meal for the whole family to enjoy! You might want to add a green salad as a side, and dinner is done!
Additional Comfort Food Recipes…
- Easy Meat Lasagna with No-Boil Noodles
- Gluten-Free, Best Zucchini Lasagna!
- Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna
- Pasta alla Nonna
- Easy Chicken Casserole (Cordon Bleu)
- Traditional Hungarian Goulash (The BEST Goulash)
- Green Bean Creamy Casserole
- Mom’s Sunday Meatballs
- Braciole – Sicilian Style!
- Easy Stuffed Shells
- FOR THE RICE MIXTURE:
- 3 cups organic long grain rice uncooked
- 6 cups of water
- 3 eggs
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
- FOR THE MEAT and PEAS MIXTURE:
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 pound 90% lean ground beef
- 1 garlic clove- diced
- 1 medium onion- chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 28-ounces (3 + 1/2 cups) Mom's Quick Marinara Sauce - divided
- 2 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano grated cheese
- organic olive oil cooking spray
- 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1+ 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
- extra marinara sauce heated, for serving
- First, cook the rice with 6 cups of water, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and follow the directions on the package. Transfer rice to a large mixing bowl, add the butter, mix, and set aside to cool.
- In the meantime, using a medium skillet, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook meat until browned and well cooked. Using a wooden spoon, break the chopped meat while cooking. Season with salt and pepper. Add peas and 8 ounces (1 cup) of tomato sauce. Cover with a lid and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, (204 C).
- In a large mixing bowl, combine rice with eggs, pecorino cheese, 8-ounces (1 cup) of marinara sauce, and mix well. Rice will be sticky.
- Spray a 13 x 9 casserole dish, including all four sides, with cooking spray. Add breadcrumbs to the baking dish, roll the dish until bottom and all sides are coated with breadcrumbs.
- Take half of the rice mixture and cover the bottom of the dish and pressing down to form a layer.
- Add the entire meat and peas mixture to cover the rice. Spread an additional ladle (or about 1/2 cup, or more if needed) of marinara sauce over the meat and peas mixture. Then scatter with a layer of shredded mozzarella on top.
- Add the remaining rice and press with the back of a spoon until the layer is even.
- Top with remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and top with a layer of shredded mozzarella.
- Cover with foil and Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove foil and BAKE for another 5 minutes, until the mozzarella is melted. Remove and cut into 12 squares. Serve with extra sauce heated.
- Serves 8 to 12
Yield:10 to 12 servings
Serving Size:1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 413Total Fat: 14.1gSaturated Fat: 5.9gCarbohydrates: 50.7gFiber: 3.3gSugar: 7.2gProtein: 19.5g