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Carnaroli: The Best Rice for Risotto

Updated on July 2, 2016


Risotto, the classic northern Italian rice dish has become popular around the world. And, not only on restaurant menus, home cooks worldwide are preparing this delicious primi (first course) for their families and friends. To achieve the authentic texture and consistency, the proper rice for risotto must be used. In Italy, risotto is made with one of three varieties of rice, Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano. Characteristically, all three of these short grain, starchy types of Italian rice have the ability to absorb liquid and release their starch in the cooking process. In my humble opinion, Carnaroli, by far, is the best rice for risotto. In its' basic preparation, the grains of rice are first toasted in butter or olive oil usually with onions (tostatura) until thoroughly coated, then liquid (wine and stock) is added gradually. With constant stirring, the rice releases its' starch into the liquid creating a rich cream-like broth. The rice absorbs these liquids, but still maintains its' shape and texture. In a properly made risotto, the grains should remain separate and still retain an al dente texture. Arborio is too easy to overcook (mushy and sticky) and Vialone Nano cooks too quickly (its smaller than the other two varieties). Carnaroli is superior for preparing a traditional Italian risotto.

Don't misunderstand, a good risotto can still be made using these other types of Italian rice. Arborio, by far is the most accessible. But, Carnaroli is becoming readily available in the gourmet section of most supermarkets. Vialone Nano is hard to find, usually only by mail order.

If you want to get a little adventurous, try using other healthy grains. Technically, it's not risotto , but they're fun to experiment with. I've used barley, faro (wheat berries ) and even lentils. The cooking times are longer, but the results are worth it.

Risotto is a very simple dish to make at home. It's healthy and has that satisfying richness (without using cream ). Just a little butter or olive oil, onion, risotto rice and vegetable or meat broth (low sodium canned broth works great ). Adding seasonal vegetables just increases the wonderful taste of this Italian classic.

Spring: Asparagus, Peas, Mushrooms (preferably Morels)

Summer: Tomatoes, Corn, Fresh herbs, Bell pepper, zucchini

Fall: Butternut squash, Cavalo Nero (dinosaur kale), Swiss chard

Winter: Root vegetables (carrots, parsnips) broccoli

*Note: I'm intending to provide more detailed recipes later this month

Mangia Bene!!! Ciao.


How to Make A Basic Risotto

Ingredients

1 cup of Carnaroli rice

1/2 medium onion diced

1 clove of garlic minced

1Tbsp. Butter or Olive Oil * see notes

3 cups of Vegetable or Meat broth * see notes

1 cup of white wine (optional)

1/2 lb. of seasonal vegetables (optional) chopped in bite size pieces

1/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Method

In a heavy high-sided pan, heat butter or oil over medium heat, sweat onion until translucent, add garlic and continue to sauté until you smell it's aroma. Add Carnaroli rice stirring until it becomes opaque ( you'll see a tiny dot in the center of the grains). At this point add the wine, if using, and allow to reduce until you can see the bottom of the pan (almost totally evaporated). Begin adding broth by ladle fulls and increase heat to medium high. Stir risotto constantly while adding more broth as needed for approximately 15 minutes or until rice is al dente (a slight bit toothsome). The consistency should be "wavey" or "lava-like". Here, my friends, is the most important step, begin vigorously stirring the risotto (this is called mantecare), adding a small amount of butter and parmesan cheese until everything is well incorporated. Serve immediately, a risotto waits for no one...

Notes

* the broth doesn't need to be simmering, that's you're call. It's fine at room temperature. If you want to add a little more depth of flavor to a risotto with seasonal vegetables, buy extra and simmer them in the broth. (e.g. asparagus, broccoli or even mushrooms)

** In Italy, Butter is the staple in the North and Olive Oil is generally used in the South. Occasionally, I will use a combination of both.




Courtesy of Sunset.com
Courtesy of Sunset.com

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    • Jai Warren profile image
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      Jai Warren 6 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      Thanks kims3003. Risotto is a dish I absolutely enjoy cooking, because you can be really creative with ingredients. If you master the basic techniques, it's a blank canvas... different vegetables, herbs and spices. Thanks for your kinds words, Ciao!!!

    • profile image

      kims3003 6 years ago

      Always was curious as to how to prepare this - you not only provided an excellent recipe which I am printing and going to try this weekend but you also provided a great deal of extra information with numerous links, video and others interesting information & facts about Risotto. You can tell you put a lot of thought and time into this hub and it definitely shows. Very well done and most impressive.

    • Jai Warren profile image
      Author

      Jai Warren 6 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      Katie, I'm flattered that you thought of my Risotto Hub. Glad I could help. Fall is the best time of year to make risotto... it's hearty, soothing and just plain delicious! Thanks my dear, Ciao.

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

      I'm just about to make Risotto and think... hmmmm Jai, I have got to check back with Jai and his great cooking and shopping tips on buying rice for Risotto and how to make it really good. There's nothing like Risotto the way you make it. Thanks for the guidance your the man who knows how to make food art. I'm picky, only like great food and appreciate your help. Love and Peace :)

    • Jai Warren profile image
      Author

      Jai Warren 6 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      Hey Bobbi, making risotto is easy, as long you know the proper techniques. And, it's much tastier than pilaf or steamed rice. BTW, I love Hell's Kitchen! Gordon Ramsay's a hoot... Thanks, try it sometime, you won't be disappointed. Ciao!

    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 6 years ago from New York

      I have always wanted to make this dish because I see it on Hell's kitchen all the time. This is a great hub. Thank you so much for posting it.

    • Jai Warren profile image
      Author

      Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      I'll have to try that Food Gal. ;) Try it with Jasmine or Basmati sometime. You don't get the creaminess, but the flavor will beat any pilaf!!! Thanks Carolyn, Ciao.

    • profile image

      Carolyn Jung 7 years ago

      Carnaroli is the best. But in a pinch -- dare I say it -- Japanese short grain rice can work beautifully, too. ;)

    • Jai Warren profile image
      Author

      Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      MPG, thanks. Risotto can be whatever your mind can conjure up. Keep it seasonal and basic. And, always use carnaroli rice! Appreciate your kind words, Ciao!

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Nice hub on risotto and the different types of rice. Love risotto and have a few recipes I use at home. Will be adding this one to them, thanks Jai. Caio.

    • Jai Warren profile image
      Author

      Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      You know MH, that's exactly what Italians use Arborio for, sweets and soups. I wish I could have tasted that rice pudding. Yum! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Always a pleasure to see you, Ciao!

    • MotherHubber profile image

      MotherHubber 7 years ago from Southern California

      I love risotto! I found some Arborio in my pantry and decided to experiment and make a baked rice pudding. Oh. man was it gooooood. It disappeared fast! Thanks for the interesting info on the other types of rice for Risotto. Learned something new today!

    • Jai Warren profile image
      Author

      Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      That comment got me thinking about Risotto. So, I wrote this Hub. Next, some recipes and the proper techniques and tips to make it. Thanks Katie, Ciao!

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

      Jai, I'm so happy you've written this review on Rice for Risotto as per our last conversation on my rice hub you brought up Risotto and got me thinking just this very thing, you must have ESP! Love the tips as Risotto is a superb dish that I love. GREAT food = Great LIFE :)

    • Jai Warren profile image
      Author

      Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      Thanks, Leptirela. I jumped over and read some of your poetry. Very beautifully done! Ciao. :)

    • Leptirela profile image

      Leptirela 7 years ago from I don't know half the time

      Great Hub, mind you I never seem to 'get it right' :/

      :))) Thank you for sharing

    • Jai Warren profile image
      Author

      Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      In a perfect risotto, each grain of rice should be separate and a little toothsome. You can reheat it the next day, but here's a tip. Spread it out in an even layer in a shallow container and make sure it's covered in the fridge. Always reheat it on the stove (don't microwave) adding a little stock or water and stir on low heat.

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 7 years ago from London, UK

      I've been looking out for your new Food Hub and didn't know you published it a week ago.

      Very interesting. I thought all Rice for Risotto was sticky. It's useful to know that Carnaroli doesn't stick. I will look out for it and experiment with some dishes.

      I'm assuming if I cook too much, I can keep it in the fridge for at least one day?

      Thanks. Great Hub. :)

    • Jai Warren profile image
      Author

      Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      Thanks oceansnsunsets! Stop back later this month, I'll be doing some Hubs that will give detailed instructions on making risotto. Ciao.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Great hub. I hope to master risotto sometimes, its such a great side dish. It goes well with so many things.

    • Jai Warren profile image
      Author

      Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      Thanks billy, for your kind words. Risotto is simple to master if you use the proper techniques and ingredients. Hope to share some of my fav recipes later this month. Ciao!

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 7 years ago

      Great thoughts - it is so easy to muck risotto up.

    • Jai Warren profile image
      Author

      Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      Would that be a luxury or what! I doubt I'd find any in Texas. :))) Thanks Lis for the visit. Ciao!

    • liswilliams profile image

      liswilliams 7 years ago from South Africa

      now you just got to dig up some black truffles!

    • Jai Warren profile image
      Author

      Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      @manthy Thanks for your kind words. Ciao!

      @GL Always a pleasure to see you. A little Carnaroli rice won't hurt you. But, the version with lentils is very earthy and satisfying. Thanks! Ciao.

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Oh wow..."toasted in butter or olive oil usually with onions" sounds like heaven. As a low carb nut, I'm going to take you up the lentil version! Rated up and useful Jai.

    • manthy profile image

      Mark 7 years ago from Alabama,USA

      Very nicely done indeed