Food Wine Italian – Riso

Risotto&VegetablesYou ask folks “what are Italy’s starchy foods”? They undoubtedly respond “pasta, and bread.” Yet in many Italian communities rice is as important as either pasta or bread. Italians are really into their rice. So much so that they produce a variety of grains of rice, all to be used differently in cooking. The most important Italian grains of rice are Arborio, Vialone Nano and Carnaroli. All three of them cook up differently.

Arborio is the most available Italian rice on the market. It is the most sturdy of the three Italian rices, and it can be sticky if over cooked. It has a lot of outer starch and a little over cooking releases too much starch, resulting in a creaminess that is too thick. If you add extra consume it may become too loose. Just be careful when cooking Arborio.

Riso Vialone Nano has a short, stubby grain with high levels of inner starch and absorbs liquids and flavors creating a robust risotto. As the outer starches are absorbed in the liquid the resotto becomes dense and creamy. This is ideal for a robust and chunky risotto, particularly with meat and seafood. It may be cooked twice; therefore, it is good for rice timbales served as a side dish, second course, or dessert. It also makes a good risotto ascuitta, on the dry side, if you cook away some of the liquid.

fruit risotto

Carnaroli is a dainty grain that holds up well. It has a good balance of both the inner and outer starches. Therefore it creates a creamy risotto with an al dente bite. If you cook off some of the liquid the risotto remains creamy and asciutta at the same time. It is ideal for delicate risotto such as risotto Milanese and desserts with rice.

For risotto recipes go to Food Wine Italian.

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