Learn how to make risotto cakes using this easy recipe. This leftover risotto recipe produces cakes that are stuffed with cheese and pan fried OR air fried for a quick appetizer or side dish. Serve with warmed marinara sauce.
Over the years risotto has become one of my favorite “fancier” dinners to make at home. Specifically smoked salmon risotto. Despite its reputation, it really isn’t complicated! As long as you keep it moving so that the risotto on the bottom of the pot doesn’t stay there for too long and stick, you’re golden.
However once you’ve (thoroughly) enjoyed freshly-made risotto, what’s up with the leftovers? While I love leftover dinner portions normally, risotto is one of those dishes that loses much of its appeal in the reheating process. The creamy texture is gone, which is a major selling point of risotto in the first place.
Instead of reheating risotto straight-up and dealing with its meh-ness, making risotto cakes is a quick and easy way to repurpose these leftovers without running into any texture concerns whatsoever. Plus they’re stuffed with cheese and dunked in marinara sauce. How can you beat that?
Reasons To Love This Recipe
- Making risotto cakes totally transforms leftover risotto into something ENTIRELY new. Your previous side/main dish is now a handheld appetizer or snack with a crisp coating and warm marinara dipping sauce. It’s great for someone who gets bored of leftovers.
- As it loses its creaminess, cold refrigerated risotto gains the perfect texture for forming patties without fuss. It holds together so well without any need for fillers or additional ingredients.
- Originally posted with pan-fried instructions, this post has been updated to include air frying instruction, too. Both ways crisp up the cakes beautifully, with the air fryer being a healthier option.
- Leftover risotto: While I haven’t tested every risotto option out there, I have made these cakes with leftover homemade and leftover boxed risotto and they both work just as well. Regular rice does not have the stick-togetherness of risotto and would not work. You’ll need one cup of risotto to form four cakes, but this recipe can be scaled up/down pretty easily.
- Breadcrumbs: While either all panko or all seasoned breadcrumbs can work, my preference is to use a 50/50 blend of both. You get extra crunch with Italian seasoning flavors that mesh well with risotto and marinara.
- Cheese: While technically optional, stuffing a small piece of cheese (mozzarella is my pick) inside the risotto cakes before frying provides a delicious melted center. When dipping into marinara, it’s reminiscent of a mozzarella stick.
First, use leftover risotto cold from the refrigerator. There’s no need to reheat it before assembling these cakes.
- Portion out the leftover risotto into four equally-sized balls, about one-quarter cup each.
- Press each ball into a flattened patty shape, then place a small piece of mozzarella cheese into the center of each one.
- Using your hands, work the risotto over the cheese to cover it well so it doesn’t melt out when you cook them. The risotto will be sticky, so the cakes should hold together well.
- Dip each formed cake into the beaten egg to moisten all parts of the surface, then press it into the breadcrumb mixture until coated completely.
Pan Fry Method
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Once heated, place risotto cakes in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom side is a nice golden-brown. Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Air Fry Method
Spray air fryer basket very well with cooking spray. Place the risotto cakes in the basket in a single layer, leaving space between each one. Spray the top sides of the cakes with olive oil spray.
Air fry on 375°F for 5 minutes, then flip each cake over. Spray the now-top side with olive oil spray and air fry for another 4 minutes, or until golden-brown and crisp.
- It’s important to use leftover risotto for this recipe, and not just regular leftover rice. Risotto’s high starch content that’s responsible for its creaminess when fresh is essential in having it stick together and hold its shape when cold.
- If desired you can use regular breadcrumbs and add dried Italian seasonings to your liking. If you like things zippy, add crushed red pepper flakes to the breadcrumb mixture.
- When forming patties, be sure that they’re all about the same thickness throughout. That way they’ll cook and brown in the same amount of time.
Yes. Form them, coat them in egg and breadcrumbs, and then place them in an air-tight container or sealable bag with parchment paper between layers, if stacking. They will stay in the freezer for 2-3 months. Just let them thaw in the refrigerator before cooking.
Warmed marinara sauce is a great dipping sauce for these cakes, but pesto sauce also works (and works well) with these flavors. Basil pesto is classic, but spinach pesto is just as delicious and provides an extra bump of nutrition.
Leftover Risotto Cakes
- 2 Tablespoons Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 2 Tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup leftover risotto
- 1-inch cube mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 equal pieces (optional)
For Pan Frying:
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
For Air Frying:
- Olive oil spray
To form the cakes:
- Add both Italian and panko breadcrumbs to a shallow bowl and stir together.
- Beat the egg in a separate, shallow bowl.
- Form the risotto into four equal ¼-cup patties. Place a piece of the mozzarella cheese (if using) into the center of each one, and then work the risotto over it to completely enclose it in the middle. Aim for all of the cakes to be about equal thickness.
To pan fry:
- Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a pan set over medium heat. Place the risotto cakes in the pan and let cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the bottoms reach a golden-brown color. Flip and repeat for the other side. Serve while warm with marinara sauce.
To air fry:
- Spray air fryer basket well with cooking spray. Place the risotto cakes in a single layer in the basket and spray the top sides with olive oil spray. Air fry at 375°F for 5 minutes, then flip each cake over. Spray the now-top sides with olive oil spray and air fry for another 4 minutes, or until crisped and golden brown. Serve while warm with marinara sauce.
- When shaping the cakes, aim for them to all have the same thickness so they cook in the same amount of time.
- Serving with warmed marinara sauce is highly recommended, but pesto sauce is also a delicious serving sauce.
- Assembled risotto cakes can be frozen before cooking. Place them in an air-tight container or sealable bag (with a sheet of parchment paper between layers, if stacking) and freeze for 2-3 months. Let them thaw in the refrigerator before cooking.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.