Best Rice Ball Casserole Stuffed with Meat and Peas

If you love all the arancini, then you will love our Best Rice Ball Casserole Stuffed with Meat and Peas! Italian rice balls are known as the Sicilian Arancini, only it’s in a casserole version. This arancini casserole is our “all-in-one” favorite meal.

Rice Ball Casserole Stuffed with Meat and Peas (aka Arancini)

This is an easy version of the Italian rice balls, called arancini, because it’s an “all-in-one” rice ball stuffed with chopped meat, peas, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. This recipe is so wonderful and easy to make. For more delicious casseroles, try Rice and Chicken Casserole, Lasagna with No-Boil Noodles, and Best Shrimp Mac and Cheese. And for “meatless” casseroles, don’t miss our Ravioli Bake Casserole, Easy Stuffed Shells, and Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna.

On a white plate is a serving of rice casserole stuffed with meat , peas and melted cheese in the center.

How to Make Rice Ball Casserole (Arancini)?…

This is a 2 step process to prepare.  One is the rice mixture and the other is the meat and peas filling.  Plus, you will need a lot of prepared marinara sauce, and at least 4 cups. These rice balls are usually served with some extra tomato sauce on top.

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!

A large platter filled with pieces of rice casserole for serving.

Ingredients Needed for this Recipe:

(*full recipe card, plus video on the below!)

  • FOR THE RICE MIXTURE:
  • Long grain rice: choose a stick rice for this recipe.
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • FOR THE MEAT and PEAS MIXTURE:
  • Ground beef: choose a package the leanest chopped meat you can find.
  • Vegetables: you will need frozen peas, garlic and onion.
  • Tomato Sauce: we prefer our Mom’s Quick Marinara Sauce. It is quick and fresh tasting and requires only 4 ingredients.
  • Seasonings: you will need some salt and black pepper.
  • FOR ASSEMBLING THE CASSEROLE:
  • Cheeses: choose some grated pecorino cheese and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus shredded Mozzarella.
  • Bread Crumbs: choose plain bread crumbs or gluten-free.

Note and Tips for Success…

  • For our recipe, we used our Mom’s Marinara Sauce, which I had on hand.  But you can use your favorite store-bought sauce.  You will need a lot of prepared tomato sauce, about 4 cups, and more.
  • You will need “sticky rice” to make this casserole.  NOTE: Instant rice will not work! Best to use Long Grain Rice. 
  • 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.
  • This casserole is “baked” which makes a delicious dinner and clean-up a breeze!

Directions to make this casserole:

(*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.

A large skillet on stove top cooking ground beef and peas together.

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.

A large white ceramic baking dish with bottom and sides coated with bread crumbs.

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. 

a large white casserole dish with meat and peas mixture.

 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.

A white large baking dish filled with meat, peas and tomato sauce, topped with shredded mozzarella cheese.

7.  Add the remaining rice mixture and spread with the back of a spoon to help spread the rice evenly.

A white ceramic baking dish filled with a layer of cooked rice.

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.

Shredded mozzarella cheese is being sprinkled on top the tomato sauce.

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.

Frequent Questions & Answers…

  1. Can we make ahead?   You can make this rice ball casserole up to 1 day ahead.
  2. Can we freeze it? 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.
  3. How to thaw, if Frozen? 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.
  4. How to serve this rice ball casserole? 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.
  5. Can we make this rice ball casserole healthier? 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!

WATCH VIDEO: How to Make our Rice Ball Casserole? (1-minute):

More Comfort Food You’ll Love… 

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Best Rice Ball Casserole Stuffed with Meat and Peas

Best Rice Ball Casserole Stuffed with Meat and Peas

This Rice Ball Casserole is made with a blend of cooked rice, chopped meat, peas, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Then baked until the mozzarella on top is melted. YUM! An easier alternative to making the original Italian/Sicilian rice balls!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, (204 C).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Take half of the rice mixture and cover the bottom of the dish and pressing down to form a layer.
  7. 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.
  8. Add the remaining rice and press with the back of a spoon until the layer is even.
  9. Top with remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and top with a layer of shredded mozzarella.
  10. 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.
  11. Serves 8 to 12

Notes

To Make Ahead: Make this rice ball casserole up to 1 day ahead. Keep it covered and chilled in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it.

To Freeze: You can make 1 large casserole, or divide this recipe into 2 smaller trays and bake one for dinner and the other, freeze it before baking. 

To Store: Always allow the casserole to cool completely before covering and storing. Then cover with aluminum foil and refrigerator or freeze. It freezes well and for up to 1 month.

Nutrition Information:

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

Did you make this recipe?

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a piece of the rice ball casserole on a white plate, and skillet filled with meat and peas.

Hello friends!  Are you cooking or baking with us?  If you make our best rice ball casserole stuffed with meat and peas, let us know and leave a comment and a star rating! Snap a photo and hashtag it on Instagram; be sure to tag us @2sistersrecipes, and on Pinterest.  

Happy Cooking!  🙂

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48 Comments

  1. Making this casserole an can’t wait to have our lunch
    The kitchen smells wonderful, the idea of a casserole I like an it’s much more easier clean up baked not fried I’m trying more of your Recipes that I am reading thank you so much I can’t wait to have my lunch

    1. Hi Irene! Welcome to our recipe blog, it is so nice to meet you! Thank you so much for trying our recipe and for subscribing! Looking forward to hearing from you again. Have a great day and happy cooking! 🙂

    1. I believe it! Sometimes that happens to me as well. Have a great week and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

    1. Yes, of course! Just leave the peas out, it’s totally fine. It won’t change the flavor. I just like to sneak in some veggies whenever I can!
      ENJOY!! 🙂

    1. Hello Michelle, I use a bag of Carolina Long Grain Rice. It’s a brand that sells in the New York Tri-state area, but I can’t find it in South Carolina, so I use a bag of long grain rice (found in the rice and beans section) and it’s no particular brand. But it works.

  2. We only have long grain brown rice. I believe brown rice usually requires more water than white rice. Should I cook rice per package directions (2 cups water per 1 cup rice) or does this recipe require extra water / less water in the rice?

    1. Yes, follow the directions to cook the brown rice. I haven’t made this dish with brown rice before, so use your best judgement. You want the rice to be moist and tender, not dry. I hope this helps! 🙂