Crispy Pancetta Rice Cakes with Tomato Basil Relish transforms leftover rice into a weeknight gourmet repast!

This fabulous vegetarian entree is one of the recipes in my Weekday Gourmand’s Meal Planner SeriesCrispy Pancetta Rice Cakes with Tomato Basil Relish  is a perfect addition to the “World Tour Week’s” Menu! 

crispy pancetta rice cakes with tomato basil relish


Leftover rice is transformed into pancetta spiked fritters stuffed with melty mozzarella, and served with a fresh tomato-basil relish!  Hot fritters, cold salad, what a fabulous combination for your taste buds to savor.

This vegetarian entree is served on Friday evening of my World Tour Week’s menu.  It’s paired with a fabulous dessert of Cranberry-Caramel Baked Apples that are cut in half before roasting for a fast weeknight treat!

You’ll make the Salted Caramel Sauce during your “post-shopping” prep session that I’ve planned for you.  The caramel sauce is also used on fresh pineapple spears with toasted almonds on another evening during the week.  That’s how the Weekday Gourmand’s Meal Planner system works!


cranberry caramel baked apples

LOVELY LEFTOVERS – Key Ingredients in the Weekday Gourmand’s Meal Planner System

And just what fabulous leftovers are used to make this incredible meatless Weekday Gourmand meal? 

It starts with the basmati rice I cooked as a side dish for Monday night’s dinner.  The whole “World Tour Week” begins with Char Siu Chinese BBQ Pork and Roasted Asian Broccoli. You’ll cook up a side of rice garnished with green onions and sliced almonds as a simple weeknight side dish.

I shared the picture of Monday’s dinner with you later in this post.

Keep reading to see what’s on the rest of the World Tour Week’s menu.  If you’re serious about eating fabulous dinners all week long, then you’ll love my Weekday Gourmand’s Meal Planner Series.



Don’t worry about what kind of rice you’ve got leftover in your refrigerator.  With my method of making these fabulous mozzarella stuffed fritters, it won’t really matter too much.

And to prove my point, this recipe is based on using leftover Basmati rice.  Earlier in the week it was made to accompany my recipe for Char Siu Chinese BBQ Pork for Monday night’s dinner.  


ingredients for crispy pancetta rice cakes with tomato basil relish

The secret to making rice cakes that will really stick together is dicing and smushing half of the cooked rice.  That makes it glutenous and sticky, allowing it to act as a binder, along with beaten egg added to the mixture.

You probably recognize this recipe is a riff on the delicious arancini of Italy.  They’re arborio rice balls which are stuffed with assorted fillings of meat or cheese.

 But, with my technique for the rice preparation, you absolutely do not need leftover arborio rice to make fabulous fried rice cakes. 

Any kind you like will do!


HOW TO “STUFF” A RICE CAKE!cheese stuffed arancini

Tips for Making Crispy Pancetta Rice Cakes:

  • Chill the rice and egg mixture in the refrigerator while making your Tomato Basil Relish.  This allows the mixture to firm up enough to make the process of stuffing them with mozzarella much easier
  • Form your rice cakes with wet hands so the mixture will stick less
  • Place a hefty tablespoonful of the rice-pancetta mixture in the palm of your hand; push your thumb into the ball to make a hole; add a few small pieces of low-moisture mozzarella and roll back into a ball
  • Flatten ball with your two hands and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet
  • Follow the remainder of the recipe to coat and fry the Crispy Pancetta Rice Cakes


crispy pancetta rice cakes with tomato basil relish


While your pancetta-rice mixture is firming up in the refrigerator, get your Tomato Basil Relish prepared.  It’s fresh and fabulous with red bell peppers and purple onion lending tons of crunch and texture to the finished relish.  Take a few moments to wash and dry your greens while you’re at it.  That way, you can have your plates assembled and ready when your rice cakes are browned and sizzling hot. 

I love the yin-yang of the cold Tomato Basil Relish and greens against the hot rice cakes and oozing cheese. It’s a real treat for a Friday night homecooked meal, wouldn’t you agree?

The recipe card for Crispy Pancetta Rice Cakes with Tomato Basil Relish is at the bottom of this post.



weekday gourmand's meal plannerI’m thrilled to introduce you to a new series I’ll be featuring here at Ingredients For A Fabulous Life.  The Weekday Gourmand’s Meal Planner features 7 days of gourmet dinner menus, not just one recipe per day.

Periodically I’ll add a new week of fresh and creative gourmet menus and recipes for you to try at home.  I think you’ll love the “Weekday Gourmand” meal planning concept I’ve come up with for you.

Not only do you eat fabulous meals every night, my menu plans are created to use up all your ingredients too!  Yes, you’ll need some pancetta for WEEKNIGHT BEEF BOURGUIGNON and HARICOTS VERTS WITH SHALLOT- PANCETTA BUTTER on Thursday. 

But you’ll use up the rest making CRISPY PANCETTA RICE CAKES WITH TOMATO BASIL RELISH the very next day.  It’s just that simple!


Check out the entire Weekday Gourmand’s Meal Planner “WORLD TOUR WEEK” menus:

  • MONDAY – Char Siu Chinese BBQ Pork, Rice w/Green Onions & Almonds, Roasted Asian Broccoli
  • TUESDAY – Mushroom Butternut Barley Risotto, Pineapple Spears with Salted Caramel Sauce & Toasted Almonds
  • WEDNESDAY – Steamed Chinese BBQ Pork Bao Buns or Pan-Fried Chinese BBQ Pork Dumplings, Simple Asian Slaw
  • THURSDAY – Weeknight Beef Bourguignon, Overnight Thyme-Parmesan Polenta and Haricots Verts with Pancetta-Shallot Butter
  • FRIDAY – Crispy Pancetta Rice Cakes with Tomato-Basil Relish, Cranberry Caramel Baked Apples
  • SATURDAY – Beef Bourguignon Barley Soup, Blue Cheese Toasts
  • SUNDAY – Roman Gnocchi with Mediterranean Vegetable Sauce, Green Apple & Arugula Salad with Blue Cheese and Sugared Walnuts


chinese bbq pork with roasted Asian broccoli



So, now you’ve got an arsenal filled with 15 fabulous weeknight gourmet recipes.  That’s great, but how do you work the “menu plan” itself?

I’ve created a printable Weekday Gourmand’s 9 Page Meal Planner to help plan everything.  Here’s what it contains, and how it will help you have a stress-free week of gourmet meals.  I’ve done all the thinking, planning and calculating for the whole week’s menu, so you won’t have to.  weekday gourmand's menu planner

  • “World Tour Week” Menu with Reused Ingredient Notations
  • Grocery Shopping Checklist with quantities noted
  • Post-Grocery Shopping Meal Prep Tasks to keep weeknights simple
  • Daily Meal Prep List
  • “Next Day’s Meal” Tasks to give you a head start on tomorrow’s dinner
  • Meal Planner Worksheet for you to make notes and help plan your week
  • Custom “Weekday Gourmand” 5″ x 7″ blank recipe cards because I love my readers!



Want to read more about my “Weekday Gourmand’s Meal Planner” and the whole World Tour Week’s menu?


Weekday Gourmand’s Meal Planner – World Tour Week Menus


YOU’RE NOT ON THE LIST YET?  Why not join in on the fun!turkey rub and brine recipe card pdf image

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Come join the gang in our Facebook group and get in on the gabfest at, The Fab Life!  That’s where we show off our triumphs and share our pursuit of “the good life” with each other all week long.  




crispy pancetta rice cakes with tomato basil relish

Crispy Pancetta Rice Cakes with Tomato Basil Relish

Yield: 4 Servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Leftover rice is transformed into a weeknight gourmet meal with pancetta spiked fritters stuffed with melty mozzarella and a fresh tomato-basil relish!. Hot fritters, cold salad, what a fabulous combination for your taste buds to savor.


  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz. pancetta, diced
  • 3 cups leftover cooked rice
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, minced
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • AP Flour (optional)
  • 2 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, cubed
  • Oil for frying fritters
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and cut in chunks
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts/bottoms, cut in chunks
  • 1 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chiffonade strips
  • 2 tsp. fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup sweet red bell pepper, diced
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (the best you can afford!)
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar


  1. In a small saute pan, cook the pancetta and oil over medium-low heat until it's just crisp. Drain on paper toweling and set aside.
  2. Divide the rice into 2 equal parts, placing one portion in a large bowl. Finely chop or mash the other half and add it to the bowl. Stir well to combine.
  3. Add the crispy pancetta, beaten egg, basil, oregano, garlic powder, S&P and Parmesan cheese. Stir well to combine ingredients. If mixture seems too moist, add all-purpose flour, a bit at a time until mixture is tight enough to hold together.
  4. Cover bowl and refrigerate fritter mixture while making Tomato-Basil Relish. Chilling will help make it easier to form patties.
  5. Combine all the ingredients for the tomato relish, except for the oil and vinegar, in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Add oil and vinegar, toss again to coat mixture and season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. Remove fritter mixture from refrigerator. Form into patties with WET HANDS. Place 2-3 pieces of mozzarella in the center of the patty. Carefully pinch and shape the rice mixture to completely encase the cheese, again pressing it into a patty shape. You can make 8 large fritters, or 12 smaller ones. (AT THIS POINT YOU CAN PUT THESE BACK IN THE REFRIGERATOR TO KEEP UNTIL YOU'RE READY TO COOK THEM)
  7. Fry fritters over medium heat in canola or peanut oil until crisp on both sides. about 4 minutes per side.
  8. Serve immediately with Tomato-Basil Relish.
Nutrition Information
Yield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 654Total Fat 28gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 18gCholesterol 120mgSodium 1210mgCarbohydrates 80gFiber 6gSugar 8gProtein 21g

Fat and calorie counts will vary with ingredients used and portion sizes.

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