Italia in a Flash: Riso and Risotto

Riso is rice in Italian and risotto is a famous Italian cooked rice dish. Risotto probably originated in Milan, drawing on the rice grown in the fertile Po River Valley since the Arabs introduced rice to the country in the Middle Ages.

Risotto relies on specific varieties of riso which provide high natural starch content and plump shape. Both those characterictisc promote a creamy texture and still-chewy center as a result of the long-stirred cooking process. Also important to the flavor of the finished risotto is the quality of the broth or wine used in the recipe.

The varieties of Italian riso most popular for the preparation of risotto are listed below.
Arborio: Preferred for creamy texture.
• Short, fat, and slightly oval-shaped, Arborio rice has a pearly white exterior.
• “Superfino”, the largest grain size and is most commonly used in the US.
• Like pasta, prepare al dente or slightly firm to the bite.
• Less milling than ordinary long grained rice so retains natural starch and creates creamy consistency.
• One pound of Arborio can use up to 6 cups of liquid without becoming mushy.
Carnaroli: Preferred for creamy texture and size.
• Most prized of Italian rice.
• “Superfino” grown between Milan & Turin.

Vialone Nano: Preferred for speed of cooking.
• A “semifino” italian rice from Verona.
• Fastest cooking Italian rice, takes about 15 minutes.
• Difficult to overcook.
• Has IGP or protected geographic classification.
• “Nano” means dwarf.

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