Christmas Traditions: Polpette Riso

Growing up I would look forward to my zia’s Polpette Riso. In our family it is a popular pre-dinner snack/finger food that is served all year round on special occasions. It was always the highlight for me on Christmas Eve when we do not eat meat (because I don’t eat fish).

Polpetta (Polpette – plural) is usually heard when referring to meatballs. But, in Italia, polpetta is more about the shape (round, like a meatball) and isn’t always made out of meat. My nonna in Italia and my zia in Toronto both make the best polpette riso and I’ve been lucky enough to have them on many occasions.

While I was home caring for my father during his illness, I began learning (and re-learning) traditional Italian dishes that I loved while growing up. My hope was to someday perfect those dishes and teach the timeless recipes to the next generation in our family. Polpette Riso is without a doubt one of these very special family recipes. My father had never made them before, so, we had to go straight to the source. He phoned up my nonna in Italy and got her personal recipe. Ironically, the first time I attempted to make them my zia was over, so she helped me through the process. They didn’t turn out too bad either, and both my zio and father approved! *big cheesy proud smile*

So, with the holidays just around the corner, I have been enlisted to make these tasty treats. Here is our family recipe for Polpette Riso. I make it as often as I can in the hopes of making it just as good as my nonna and zia! 🙂

Just like many family recipes, there are no set measurements; a lot of it is intuition and experience. The more you make them the easier it is to know how much of this or that you need to add or subtract.

WARNING – this is not a fat-free, low fat or anything like that kind of recipe…its a special occasion treat!

Polpette Riso

Nonna’s Polpette Riso

What you need:
Rice – 1 litre (Italian Style – not instant, arborio)
Eggs (appox 6-8)
Parmesan Cheese (around 2 cups, may need more depending on consistency of mixture)
Chopped Parsley
Bread Crumbs
Vegetable Oil

What to do:

Boil water.
Add 1 litre of uncooked rice to boiling water.
Cook the rice until it is tender.
Once rice is cooked be sure to drain any remaining water.
Spread rice out onto a cookie sheet (or other flat surface) and let it cool. (For best results, cook rice the day before and let it sit in the fridge over night).
Once rice is cold combine rice, 6-7 eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt (as desired) and chopped parsley. There are no set measurements for this – you have to add ingredients as needed.

With your hand begin combining the ingredients together. Mix well! The mixture should not be too wet or too dry…it must be dry enough to form. If the mixture is too wet it will start to break apart when you begin to cook them. If you find your mixture to be too wet you can add breadcrumbs or more Parmesan cheese to dry it up.

Once mixture is combined it is ready to roll into balls. Lightly wet your hands with cold or lukewarm water. Roll into balls (as though you were making a meatball) then work into a longer oval shape (like a finger). You can make them as big or small as you like.

Heat oil in a deep frying pan. You need to have enough oil to completely cover the rice polpette. The oil must get very hot before you put the fingers in. You can test the temperature with one polpetta…if the oil sizzles and boils around the polpetta then it is hot enough.

Place the polpette in the pan of hot oil and let it cook…when they start to get golden brown you can turn them over. Turn them over a couple times in order to get a nice color all around.

When they are ready to come out of the oil, place them in a bowl or large pasta strainer lined with paper towels so that the oil can drain. Note: if you are using a strainer make sure to place it on top of a plate as the oil may seep through and spill.

Polpette Riso can be eaten warm or cold.  They taste awesome either way.


  1. Franca

    November 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Oh my god! I just wanted to cry when I saw your recipe. It was the same as my moms who came from Malito Cosenza. I have a lot of family in Toronto
    As well. My parents are now gone, but I still like making their italian dishes!
    I am married to a Canadian, but my two daughters still like the italian dishes my mom used to make! So my girls and I always try to make them. My oldest daughter always says it tastes good, but not as good as nana’s!
    Tks for making my day

  2. Pasquale

    September 26, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    WONDERFUL, we make these as per our Nonna’s recipe, the same as you but I grew up just calling them Polpetinni….. Now I know better. A few twists to our recipe is cook the rice in Chicken stock and omit the salt and when you are mixing the ingredients with the rice, add dried chillis…..

  3. Tom Peca age 65

    October 11, 2011 at 1:13 am

    These Polpette Riso are almost exactly the way my mother used to make them. She always added a hint of nutmeg, ricotta and basil.

    Your description of the mixture left out the bread crumbs. I know you said add some breadcrumbs if the mixture is to wet. Do the breadcrumbs get mixed in with all the other ingredients or are they rolled in bread crumbs after forming and before frying. ( I have seen it both ways )

    A little twist on the standard Polpette Riso is to add some small pieces of mozzarella cheese in the center with a few peas. It’s tricky but you can figure it out. Nice surprise when you first bite into them.

    Our Family recipe – Calabrian/Sicilian version.

    Rice Croquettes (Polpette di riso)

    8 cups of cooked rice Al Dente – You can add some chicken stock to the water with 1 – 2 Tbsp salt. I prefer long grain over arborio rice. Do not over cook.
    6 eggs
    1 1/2 Cup Fresh Basil breadcrumbs – Homemade is always better
    3/4 Cup fresh grated pecorino – romano cheese
    1 Cup Whole Ricotta cheese – do not use skimmed Ricotta
    2 Tbsp – Chopped Parsley
    2 Tbsp – Chopped Basil
    Salt and pepper to taste with a hint of Nutmeg


    Cook the rice Al Dente in salted water. (You can also substitute some or all of the water with Chicken stock). I add a Tbsp butter to the water also

    Place rice in the fridge to chill. Loosen the rice after a couple hours.

    When rice is cooled off, add the rest of the ingredients and mix together. Test for Salt and Pepper

    Chill the mix for an hour to improve flavor. (Overnight works also)

    Form The Polpette Riso into elongated egg shapes or small patties and fry in 1/4 inch of Vegetable / Canola or Sunflower oil. You can also bake the Croquettes. I have found that 1/3 measuring cup rounded of rice mixture makes them a nice size and manageable.

    Some people will roll the Croquettes in the bread crumbs before frying.

    As a nice option take a few cooked green peas and a small piece of mozzarella cheese and place in the center of the Polpette before frying or baking. Yummy

  4. Dago T

    December 22, 2010 at 11:23 am

    My grandmother made these when I was a kid. Then my (Irish!) mother took over. Now my brother and I try to keep the family tradition going. I always thought my grandma was saying, “rice pa-pett”?

  5. Deb

    December 23, 2008 at 3:32 am

    I was thrilled to see your photo of the polpette! My Nonna used to make them and served them exactly as you described — a pre-dinner snack (as soon as you walked through the door!) served on special occasions, especially Christmas.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. LuLu

      December 24, 2008 at 11:09 am

      Thanks! 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed the post. They are one of those foods that always reminds me of my father’s town. Everyone makes these yummy treats there and everyone loves them. They are always a hit!!

  6. Enrico

    December 22, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Thanks for your help with making them yesterday. I’m sure they’ll be a hit with my girlfriend’s family! This is definitely something I will teach to my wife and children. =D

    1. LuLu

      December 24, 2008 at 11:07 am

      No problem fratellino!! 🙂 You know I enjoy making them. You did an awesome job…they came out great!! 🙂

  7. paninigirl

    December 20, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Love these-you’ve inspired me to make them this week! Thanks for sharing your recipe.

    1. LuLu

      December 24, 2008 at 11:06 am

      You are very welcome! Let me know how it turns out for you! 🙂

  8. Carla

    December 19, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Yum! They look really good. I might try your nonna’s recipe…my mom’s speciality is the polpette (or crochette) di patate…love all this kind of stuff!!! 🙂

    1. LuLu

      December 24, 2008 at 11:05 am

      My zia in Italy makes the polpette di patate. I think it will be the next dish I try to learn.

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