These cheesy risotto cakes are an easy and tasty way to use up leftover risotto! They’re breaded in a crispy, cheesy coating, and served with a simple homemade tomato sauce.

Cheesy risotto cake served on tomato sauce, being broken into with a fork.

Leftover risotto is not a regular feature in my fridge. I always try to cook more risotto than we need, since there are so many delicious things you can do with the leftovers, but somehow we end up eating it all anyway – it’s just that good. But if you can bring yourself to hold some back, these cheesy risotto cakes are a brilliant way to use up your leftover risotto. Served in a simple homemade tomato sauce, they’re nice and fancy, but easy to make too!

Cheesy breaded risotto cake in tomato sauce.

What are risotto cakes?

Risotto cakes are essentially arancini, but slightly flatter.

…and what are arancini?

Arancini are fried rice balls, often stuffed with an additional filling, like cheese or meat. They’re a great way to use up leftover risotto, and these risotto cakes are just as good.

Aerial shot of a breaded risotto cake in tomato sauce.

Why make risotto cakes?

These cheesy risotto cakes are basically just an easier way of making arancini. You don’t need to faff about stuffing them with a filling (which can be fiddly and time consuming) – just coat your leftover risotto with a cheesy breadcrumb mixture, and fry the risotto cakes in a pan.

I find the slightly flatter shape easier to fry than the round version, too – you don’t need to deep fry them, just shallow fry each side in a small amount of oil.

I served my risotto cakes in a simple homemade tomato sauce, so you get all the same flavour you would if you’d stuffed them with something fancy, but with much less hassle.

Leftover cold risotto shaped into balls on a plate.

Leftover risotto

First, you’ll need your leftover risotto.

I used a plain risotto for these (just a cheesy, garlicky one), but any flavour of risotto will work beautifully. I’d just avoid anything too chunky, as large pieces of vegetable might stop the cakes from holding together too well.

As you’ll know if you’ve ever been lucky enough to have leftover risotto, it becomes pretty firm and stodgy when it cools. It doesn’t actually look that appetising until it’s reheated, but it’s perfect for shaping into risotto cakes!

Just use clean hands to squeeze the risotto into your desired shape, and you’re already halfway there.

A leftover risotto cake being coated in breadcrumbs.

Cheesy breadcrumb coating

Next, the crispy coating!

You could use plain breadcrumbs if you prefer, but I mixed a bit of vegetarian parmesan into mine. It helps to make your risotto cakes extra crispy, and extra tasty – crispy cheese has got to be one of the best flavours in the world, no?

I didn’t bother with the usual flour / egg / breadcrumb combination, as the leftover risotto is sticky enough that you can literally just go straight into the breadcrumb mixture, and it will stick just fine. It saves a lot of faff!

Now, they’re ready to cook.

Collage showing leftover risotto cakes cooking in a frying pan until crispy.

Shallow fried risotto cakes

The risotto cakes don’t need much cooking – you just need the risotto itself to be nice and hot, and the breadcrumb coating to be crisped up to your liking. A few minutes on each side, over a medium heat, should be fine.

You’ll end up with golden brown, crispy risotto cakes that are so enticing you’ll want to nibble them straight out of the pan.

A plateful of crispy risotto cakes.

Homemade tomato sauce

I served my risotto cakes on top of a good dollop of homemade tomato sauce. It brings a different flavour to the dish (cheesy, creamy rice is amazing, but it’s a bit one dimensional), as well as making them look pretty gorgeous on the plate.

You could totally serve these up to guests, either as an appetiser (1 each), or as a main course (2 or 3 each, with a big salad on the side).

I made my tomato sauce simply in a frying pan, but this slow cooker tomato sauce is brilliant too, if you want an even easier option.

Serve it all up together, topped with a bit more grated cheese and some fresh herbs to make it look extra stunning.

A crispy risotto cake sitting in a bowl of tomato sauce.

Although these risotto cakes aren’t stuffed with anything extra, the cheesy risotto is nice and gooey when you break through the crispy crust – it couldn’t be more satisfying.

Cheesy, tomatoey, creamy, crispy, gooey… these risotto cakes have it all.

A crispy risotto cake with tomato sauce being cut with a fork.

Cheesy risotto cakes in tomato sauce

These cheesy risotto cakes are an easy and tasty way to use up leftover risotto! They're breaded in a crispy, cheesy coating, and served with a simple homemade tomato sauce.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 400 g tin (~ 1 1/3 cups) chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree / paste
  • 1 tsp Italian-style dried mixed herbs
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • ~ 5 cups leftover risotto
  • 50 g vegetarian parmesan-style cheese, finely grated (~ 1/2 cup when grated)
  • 50 g (~ 1 cup) fine breadcrumbs (I used panko)
  • To serve: fresh parsley (optional)

Instructions

  • Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a deep frying pan, and add the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes over a medium heat, then add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, dried herbs, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer, and leave it to bubble away while you prepare the risotto cakes.
  • With clean hands, form your leftover risotto into burger shapes. The exact size doesn’t matter, but I made 9 in total. If your warm hands have made the risotto soften, put them back in the fridge to firm up again (I didn’t need to do this, but it will depend on how thick your risotto is).
  • Combine the parmesan and breadcrumbs in a small dish, and roll each risotto cake in the mixture, making sure to coat all sides.
  • Heat another dash of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and place a few of the risotto cakes in the pan. You may need to cook them in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan – I cooked 3 at a time. Cook for a few minutes each side, until the coating is golden brown and crispy, and the risotto inside is piping hot.
  • Serve the risotto cakes with the tomato sauce, topped with a little extra parmesan and some fresh parsley, if desired.
Course: Appetiser, Main meals
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Becca Heyes
Nutrition Facts
Cheesy risotto cakes in tomato sauce
Amount Per Serving (1 risotto cake)
Calories 183 Calories from Fat 57
% Daily Value*
Fat 6.3g10%
Saturated Fat 1.5g8%
Cholesterol 4mg1%
Sodium 112mg5%
Potassium 141mg4%
Carbohydrates 29.3g10%
Fiber 0.9g4%
Sugar 1.7g2%
Protein 4.9g10%
Calcium 68mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose (and how you made your initial risotto). Information above is for 1 risotto cake, including tomato sauce.

Want to know how to make risotto in any flavour? Here’s how!