Thanks to Valentina Harris’ book Risotto! Risotto! for helping us to understand this staple Italian ingredient.
The large-grained Arborio rice is the rice that is often suggested for risotto – its name comes from the town in the Vercelli area of Italy where it was developed in the 1940s – and you can find it easily in most supermarkets. It needs to rest once you have cooked it to allow the grains to swell and finish cooking.
Carnaroli is the rice that some Italians insist is the best for making risotto (or risotti, the plural). It keeps its shape throughout cooking allowing it to absorb lots of stock without collapsing and it has a lovely texture in the mouth. Valentina Harris says that it is the risotto rice that is hardest to overcook so it’s excellent for nervous risotto makers.
Baldo is a fine rice which is used for salads where the rice is to be boiled first, before a sauce or dressing is added. Ribe is another risotto rice that can be used for boiling (and also for traditional risotto).
Vialone Nano is used in Verona and Mantova and you’ll find it in delicatessens and sometimes in supermarkets. It makes a creamy risotto.
Originaria is used when you are making risotto with meat or sausage or vegetables. It’s also the ideal rice to use if you are baking a rice dish or cooking the rice on the stove with milk. It’s the rice that is used when making arancini from scratch but you can also use any leftover cooked risotto rice.
Padana and Maratelli are suitable for adding to soups and can also be used to make a traditional risotto.
Roma and Sant’Andrea are large-grained rices like carnaroli and according to Valentina, are used especially for Rise e Bisi, which is a rice dish that Italian children are given when they are sick.
Rosa Marchetti is a rare small round-grained rice used in Piedmont.
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