Today I’ve transformed my Mama’s rice balls…a bit different, a little healthier and still good! With spring and summer on the horizon I wanted to attempt a baked rice ball using spinach and fontina cheese. With a few small changes, I think I have come up with a slightly “better for you” version of the traditional rice ball that I grew up on.
To start these rice balls are baked not fried and keep their round shape by placing them inside of a greased mini muffin pan. To keep them crunchy on the outside I give them a light outer spritzing of olive oil. This helps keep the crunchiness of the rice ball without all the extra fat. I use an Olive Oil Sprayer to coat breaded foods, like rice balls, chicken cutlets, etc.. It’s a great way to lower the amount of oil in your foods.
In addition to helping the rice balls keep their shape, the mini muffin pan also helps with portion size. Instead of having one Gigantic Rice Ball saturated in grease, you get one perfectly sized side dish (or even appetizer) I decided to make this rice ball with traditional white rice but you could also substitute with brown rice instead. Cooking the rice in stock also bumps up the flavor value in this dish as well. Oh and hey, let’s not forget that this dish is also jam packed with a good amount of spinach, which we all know has numerous nutritive values.
Now look, I know these aren’t my “Mama’s Rice Balls” but they are a great healthier alternative. They are still cheesy, creamy and full of flavor. You know I am not much of a wordsmith so eccoli (“here they are”)… Panko Breaded Rice Balls with Spinach and Fontina!
Baked Panko Breaded Rice Balls with Spinach
- 2 cups white rice cooked
- 2 cups chicken/vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup chopped spinach
- 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
- 1/2 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
- 1/4 olive oil
- Oil for greasing muffin pan oil sprayer would work great
- mini muffin pan
- Cook Rice according to package directions using stock instead of water. Once cooked let rice cool slightly then add add spinach, cheeses and egg. Mix well together.
- Transfer rice mixture to a mixing bowl, cover and refrigerate until cold (overnight is best)
- The next day: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a mini muffin pan.
- Scramble egg in a shallow bowl. Place breadcrumbs in a separate shallow bowl. Using a mini ice cream scooper (or tablespoon) roll rice mixture between hands until a ball is formed. Dip in egg and then breadcrumbs. Drop individual rice balls into mini muffin pan.
- Optional: spray with olive oil before baking
- Place muffin pan into the oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool when cooked and carefully remove with a spoon of small spatula.
1)Keep rice balls smaller than muffin pan so they stay rounded and not so big that they spill over the top - this will create a muffin look (which isn't terrible)
Halfway through cooking process remove pan(s) from oven and carefully flip over the rice balls
..this will help keep them rounded instead of muffin shaped. Don't force them out if they are sticking I would just leave them (they will still cook fine)
2)Fry rice balls in a deep fryer or deep frying pan