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Lemon rice balls recipe with coconut tomato sauce

Polpette di riso al limone

It is often a simple recipe that gives me unexpected satisfaction.
Like these lemon rice balls. Fragrant, soft, even voluptuous.

From my grandmother, I learned to recycle leftover rice to make meatballs.
Usually, it is already seasoned rice that I mix with an egg. If it is white rice, I add grated Parmigiano, salt, and nutmeg in addition to an egg.

In 2019, I blogged a recipe for meatballs made with leftover rice. It is a dish from the home kitchen, simple and comforting. Then a funny thing happened.

One day I replaced the nutmeg with lemon zest. And from there began a journey that led me, three years later, to share this dish.


Lemon rice balls recipe with coconut tomato sauce

Rice balls

Story of a recipe.
I am recycling some leftover rice. 

It is already seasoned with butter and Parmesan cheese. I shape the meatballs and toss them in the pan.
The recipe has already been on the blog because recycled rice balls have a comfortable flavor and shape.

Usually, I add the scent of nutmeg, but this time I have organic lemons and prefer to replace the spice with grated citrus zest. And since I love oregano, I add that as well.

I execute without much thought.

I taste, and a memory surfaces. Lemon rice balls, those fried and small as cherries, of Giovanna’s mother. A petite Calabrese woman, a great cook of few words.

At that precise moment, I decided even my lemon rice balls had to come out of anonymity to transmit something more.

I started cooking the rice to find my recipe.
I worked on the flavor for a long time but felt something was missing.

Then the turning point.

My friend Ilaria sends me photos of dishes she made during a cooking class. Among them, there are meatballs with coconut tomato sauce.

Thoughts flew to my lemon rice balls. And I finally realized what was missing: the sauce.

I cooked the meatballs in a tomato sauce diluted with coconut milk.
And since Asian cooking calls for fresh herbs, I added an chopped aromatic with an Italian accent made with parsley and basil.

Yes, the recipe is finally complete.

Buona cucina, Monica

Cook with me

Rice is a versatile ingredient. We can cook many different recipes using it. Which one do you prefer among those that are on the blog?

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Lemon rice balls

Lemon rice balls recipe with coconut tomato sauce

Food tip

You can replace the coconut milk with 50g of natural white yogurt.

Lemon rice balls recipe with coconut tomato sauce

4-5 servings
List of Ingredients

arborio rice, 700 g
grated Parmigiano Reggiano, 70 g
breadcrumbs, 80 g
eggs, 2
grated rind of one lemon
dried oregano, to taste
soy sauce, olive oil and salt to taste.

tomato sauce
tomato puree, 300g
vegetable or chicken broth (or water), 100ml
coconut milk, 100ml
salt, olive oil to taste

Garnish with chopped fresh herbs: parsley and basil or whichever you prefer.


Cook rice in salted boiling water until slightly overcooked.

Drain rice, pour into a pan and toss for a few minutes with olive oil and soy sauce (5-6 tablespoons).

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients first with a fork, then with your hands.

Use a spoon to form large rice balls and arrange them on a tray or sheet of baking paper.

Place the meatballs in a large pan greased with generous olive oil. Cook over medium heat until a golden crust forms, about 10 minutes.

Remove the lemon rice balls from the pan. If you want, they are already good as is.
If not, proceed with making the sauce.

In the pan where you have cooked the meatballs, combine passata, broth, milk, and a portion of chopped fresh herbs. Add olive oil and salt and cook the sauce for about 10 minutes over medium-low heat.

Return the meatballs to the pan and continue cooking for a few minutes, turning the rice balls.

Sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs and serve.


Italian vegetarian recipes

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