To create an authentic creamy Italian risotto, the use of specialist rice is imperative. It comes in various forms and is usually very pale in colour, stubby and smooth in texture. Grains range in length from commune to semifino, fino and superfino, which is the longest. The nature of the grain also varies from region to region. The most commonly used risotto rice in the UK is arborio, although Italians may deem carnaroli and vialone nano to have a higher quality. Other varieties include roma, ribe and baldo. Other long grain rice should be avoided – semi-round risotto rice absorbs liquids and flavours and releases starch far better, giving risotto its characteristic texture.
Risotto rice is a storecupboard ingredient that is farmed all year round and imported regularly, meaning it can always be bought in the UK and never goes out of season.
Choose the best
Risotto rice produced in Italy is the superior product. If buying a supermarket own brand, ensure that it has been imported.
Keep the rice in a cool, dry, dark place until ready for use. Ensure it is covered with a lid or kept in a sealed box. The rice does not need washing before use.
Unlike other rice that is left in a pan of water to boil, risotto rice requires constant attention to ensure a perfectly finished dish. Create the base of your savoury risotto with onions fried in butter or oil. Stir in the rice and cook until semi-transparent and covered in the cooking juices. Over a low heat, gradually add ladles of stock, which will be absorbed by the rice, causing it to expand and alter in texture from defined stiff strands into a more cohesive creamy mass. Add extra vegetables, meat or fish later in the cooking process, depending on cooking time required. Once the risotto is cooked, it can be cooled to a glutinous texture that can be worked into shapes for frying, known as 'arancini'. To make a sweet risotto rice pudding, bring milk and cream to the boil, add the rice then simmer over a low heat, stirring slowly until the rice is cooked through and creamy.
Watch this video on how to make risotto:
Try arborio rice or risotto rice.