Risotto is an Italian rice dish for which several types of rice, but not all, are suitable.
The most important criteria are that the grains should be plump and white, medium or short-grain varieties.
This ensures that plenty of starch is released from the rice while cooking, helping to give the dish its proper creamy texture, and that the grains absorb plenty of stock and wine to give a lovely juicy flavour.
Arborio, carnaroli and vialone nano are the classic Italian risotto rice varieties and the best choices for an authentic dish.
Risottos are best kept simple but can be flavoured with fish and shellfish, poultry, vegetables, ham and other cured meats, and even strawberries.
Risotto rices can be used to make creamy rice puddings.
Arborio rice, a pearly-looking, round, fat, Italian white rice, forms the foundation of risotto, the dish. Riso means rice in Italian. Like other rices, Arborio is a member of the grass family. What distinguishes it is a higher than normal amount of soluble starch that is released during cooking. The starch is what makes a risotto creamy. Superfino is the highest grade of arborio rice.
Carnaroli rice grows nearly twice as tall as either Arborio or Vialone Nano, making it extremely difficult to harvest (it must be harvested as soon as it matures, before the large grain falls over from its own weight!). What makes carnaroli rice different from other rices? First, because this rice plumps to three times its size when cooked, absorbing a staggering amount of liquid along the way. The resulting texture is creamy, yet still al dente. Second, carnaroli is as white as snow, resulting in a dazzlingly beautiful plate of risotto. The large grain also makes it an exceptional choice for rice salad.
Vialone Nano Rice
Vialone Nano is the traditional rice of Mantua and the Veneto region. This rice has a short, round, plump grain with a central wide pearl. Able to absorb twice its own grain weight, it's an ideal rice for true, creamy risotto. Like Arborio rice, the grains are high in starch content and, when cooked, have a creamy, saucelike consistency.
Click here to see our Italian rices.