Arborio –or risotto rice- is a short grain round rice with a very high starch content and an internal “deformity” that makes the core of the rice remain firm when cooked. No other rice mimics this particular toothsome and creamy combination, and while Arborio is white rice, it is also, unlike most other white rice, unpolished
and retains most of its native nutrients as a consequence. Other rice varieties that make excellent risotto include Roma, Carnaroli, Padano, Vialone Nano and Baldo, with grades ranging in ascending order from commune to semi-fino (semi-fine) to fino (fine).
When I lived in Italy I spent 4 years in the northeastern Veneto region. I learned to cook risotto there. This once-daunting dish became a staple food in my kitchen, and it is really remarkably easy to make once you master certain things. Risotto is defined by a texture that is at once very creamy and al dente. Al dente literally means “to the tooth”, or with a slight bite to it. This unique texture is achieved with an equally unique strain of rice called Arborio that grows in the Po Valley of the Piemonte region of Italy and more recently in California and Texas as well.
Getting back to risotto
: it requires lots of stirring and attention, so if you don’t have time for a slightly meditative cooking experience, wait until you do. Use a wooden spoon when making risotto, so you don’t bruise the grains of rice. Hot stock is essential to achieving the right creaminess, so make sure you keep your broth simmering while you make the risotto. Serve the risotto immediately. It gets gluey and gummy if it sits too long (not an attractive attribute). see my step-by-step tutorial for complete instructions on How to Make Risotto
. Extra risotto can be eaten the next day by reheating it with a bit of broth or water, or can be made into risotto cakes. I’m sure the latter were some Italian housewife’s remedy for sticky leftovers. Cold risotto is formed into round patties that are slowly browned in olive oil until a crisp crust holds a creamy center. For more ideas on risotto, see Wild Mushroom and Saffron Risotto with Variations