We’re in a bit of a dinner rut (which I know sounds crazy coming from a food blogger!) so I turned to my friends on Instagram Stories a few weeks ago, asking them what the last meal was that knocked their socks off. I got so many great ideas, including an oldie but goodie recipe from Skinnytaste for Sicilian Rice Ball Casserole.
I audibly “oooo‘ed” after reading the suggestion, as I used to frequently make the dish after Ben’s and my excellent Italian adventure nearly ten years ago. (Where in the HADES did the last decade go, by the way?) Back then I’d wanted to recreate some of the dishes we ate on the Amalfi Coast, where Ben and I stayed for part of our trip, and the flavors of Gina’s casserole took us right back to the cliffside town of Praiano, just up from Positano, that we immediately fell in love with. The sparkling sea views, charming, hidden gardens, and endless supply of centuries old, steep stone staircases completely exceeded our expectations.
Being the sophisticated foodies that we are, Ben and I found the local pizza shop quickly after arriving, and there was more then one occasion when we had to haul our gelato-laden butts up said steep stone staircases to the shop after realizing they were about to close for the day.
Pro tip: Mom and Pop restaurants in Italy have odd hours and close early by American standards, but homemade pizza is worth the gasp-inducing, will-they-or-won’t-they-make-it climb every time!
In addition to pizza, the shop sold the most incredible Arancini – ie Sicilian or Italian Rice Balls which are leftover risotto rolled into balls then stuffed with stewed meats, cheeses, and vegetables, and then fried – that paired perfectly with an ice cold Peroni on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. Ugh, take me back!
Anyway, I haven’t made the casserole in 6 or 7 years, and was inspired to simplify it into the skillet recipe you see here. Italian Rice Ball Casserole is ready in just 20 minutes, made from kitchen staples, and would you believe there’s zero chopping required, save for some fresh parsley if you wish to sprinkle on top at the end? Like biting into a hot and sizzling Italian Rice Ball, this meal is comforting to the max.
My Italian Rice Ball Skillet is cooked rice mixed with a combination of ground beef and sweet Italian sausage, marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, and frozen peas, then smothered in shredded mozzarella cheese and broiled until hot and melty. Literally I was tapping my foot in my kitchen waiting for the rice to finish cooking because everything else comes together in about 10 minutes. Lez go, rice!
Hey, if you can’t get to the Italian coast anytime soon, this simple skillet dinner might just squash a craving for one of their yummy, hearty delicacies. Now, if only I could trade the foot of snow outside my window for sea views instead. Ah, a girl can dream! ;)
Start by cooking the rice. I usually cook rice in the same skillet as the other ingredients in my rice-based skillet dinner recipes but this time…I didn’t. HA! Seriously though, I wanted to ensure the rice cooked well and thought the marinara sauce might gunk things up.
It seems like everyone’s got their own way to cook rice, but here’s mine: to a small pot with a tight fitting lid add 1 cup long grain white rice, 1-3/4 cup water, a drizzle extra virgin olive oil and big pinch salt. Bring to a simmer – NOT a boil – then place a lid on top, turn the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste a spoonful of the rice, quickly putting the lid back on. If the rice is still a little crunchy add a couple additional Tablespoons of water then continue to simmer for 2 more minutes. If the rice is al dente, take the pot off the heat then let steam with the lid on for 5 minutes before fluffing.
Two of my best tips for successfully cooking rice is:
- Start with good rice. I only use Lundberg Family Farms rice. You are not going to get as tasty or fluffy rice with minute rice.
- Don’t put your pot on a burner that’s much larger than the pot. This will not only cause spillovers but the water will evaporate faster then the rice can absorb it, causing unevenly cooked rice.
Alrighty! While the rice is simmering add 1/2lb ground beef and 1/4 pound ground sweet Italian sausage to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season with homemade seasoned salt and pepper then brown and drain if necessary.
Return the meat to the skillet then add 1 cup marinara sauce (locals I use Gino’s), 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend, 1/3 cup frozen peas, and 1-1/2 cups cooked rice (save the remaining rice for another use.)
Stir until all the ingredients are heated through then spread the mixture evenly into the bottom of the skillet and top with 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese.
Broil until the cheese is melted then scoop, serve, and devour! I hope you live this EASY, tasty twist on an Italian classic! Enjoy!
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Italian Rice Ball Skillet
20 Minute Italian Rice Ball Skillet is made in a jif with ZERO chopping required! This easy and delicious, gluten-free dinner recipe is the the deconstructed version of fried Italian Rice Balls.
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 1/2lb ground beef
- 1/4lb ground sweet Italian sausage
- homemade seasoned salt and pepper
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
- 1/3 cup frozen peas
- 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Add rice plus 1-3/4 water, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and dash of salt to a small saucepan. Turn heat to high then once water starts to gently bubble (NOT boil) place a lid on top, turn heat down to medium-low, then simmer for 10 minutes. Taste a spoonful - the rice should be al dente. If the rice is still crunchy, add a few more Tablespoons water to the pot then cook for 2-3 more minutes. Remove pot from heat then let steam for 5 minutes with the lid on before fluffing and measuring out 1-1/2 cups rice (save extra rice for another use.)
- Meanwhile, preheat broiler then add ground beef and sweet Italian sausage to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season with homemade seasoned salt and pepper then saute until cooked through. Drain if necessary then return to the skillet. Turn heat down to medium then add 1-1/2 cups cooked rice, marinara sauce, Italian seasoning blend, and frozen peas, and then stir until ingredients are combined and heated through. Spread into an even layer in the bottom of the skillet then sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top and broil until melted.
- Click here for my 4-ingredient homemade seasoned salt >
- I like Lundberg White Jasmine Rice for this dish.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.