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risotto - what kind of rice?

  • l
  • leah Feb 12, 2005 10:59 PM

embarassed to admit, i still havent figured out the who cooking with rice thing, as in, what type to use for what, as i almost never cook with rice.

so im thinking about making risotto for a family gather tomorrow, and happen to have a few boxes of long grain rice laying around. can i use this?

most recipes call for arborio - whats the difference?

thanks!

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  1. Here's a site that should be helpful.

    I don't use rice very often, so I hope others that due will be able to explain the differences.

    Link: http://www.sagevfoods.com/MainPages/R...

    1. You can't use long grain for risotto. According to Faith Willinger the best rice for risotto is carnaroli or vialone nano.

      1. There are three broad categories of rice, long, medium, and short grain rice. The general rule of thumb is the shorter the grain, the starchier the rice (and short grain rices will have a more glutinous quality to them). As listed on dt's link, Arborio (and other traditional risotto rices such as Carnaroli and Vialone Nano) are medium grain rices that are starchier than regular long grain rices.

        As a result, if you try to make risotto with long grain rices, several results are likely to occur:

        a) Your rice will not be creamy and rich as there's not enough starch in the rice to be released during cooking

        b) The texture of the rice grains themselves will be different, lending a (for lack of better term) grainier texture to the dish.

        If you wish to make a rice dish, a good long grain rice dish to make is a pilaf/pulao or biryani. One of the pillars of Persian cuisine is their beautiful steamed rice made with a long grain variety. Some saffron, dill weed, barberry are things you can put to make delicious Persian rices.

        1. I have been using short or medium grain California pearl rice...some people seem to think the Italian Arborio tastes better. Maybe because it costs so much more. Never understood that principle, "if it costs more, it must be better."

          2 Replies
          1. re: Jim H.

            I'd also like to try Risotto. Do I need to rinse the pearl rice?

            1. re: geekgirl

              Don't rinse rice to make risotto - it removes the starch which creates the creaminess you seek to achieve. That said, I don't think that arborio/other Italian risotto rices are that much more expensive than other short grain rice - worth at least trying once.

          2. I totally agree with Jim and Curtis's posts. Save your long grain rice for something drier: pilaf, Mexican rice, biryani. If you use it for risotto you'll most likely get beady rice in a watery sauce.

            Risotto needs short/medium, fluffy, starchy rice. Don't feel like you need to spend the money on arborio, unless you want to play it safe the first time around.

            1 Reply
            1. re: nooodles

              Up here I can get enough Carnaroli to make enough Risotto to feed 20 at around 3 or 4 bucks. Granted, I can get more rice for 3 or 4 bucks of other varieties, but it's still no more than 20 cents per serving.

            2. a
              Amin (London Foodie)

              Leah, I have not as yet read the responses received
              on this thread, however am linking you to a recent
              enquiry on 'craving' board, and if you select my
              reply under this particular link, I think you will
              find a suitable rice for your risotto.

              If you post a seperate thread on this same board
              for recipes, shall be pleased to give you a few tips
              on cooking risotto.

              Best Wishes
              Amin

              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              1. As others have said, arborio is a medium-grain rice and will result in a creamy, slightly nutty risotto. Agree w/ others that long-grain rice won't cut it.

                I used to scoff at the idea of having to use "proper" Italian rice for risotto, so have used rice such as Calrose or sushi rice in the past w/ decent results. However, I recently purchased some Vialone Nano arborio from Le Village's warehouse store (see link), and wow, makes a significant dif. in flavor and texture...perfectly al dente yet cooked through, creamy, and nutty as a good risotto should be IMO. I noticed the dif. even during the cooking process, as each kernel soaked up the broth seamlessly. I think I paid little less than their online store price, but felt that it was worth the $.

                Link: http://www.levillage.com/Detail.bok?s...

                10 Replies
                1. re: Carb Lover

                  I don't know why they call it vialone nano arborio. Arborio is one variety and vialone nano another. According to Faith no one she spoke to in her search for the right rice recommended it.

                  1. re: aldente

                    Hmmmm...don't know much about the dif. btwn. vialone nano vs. arborio myself so just quoted it from the package. Do you know more about the actual dif. btwn. the two? Who is Faith and who did she consult with on rice? I usually see arborio suggested in recipes. Thanks.

                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      Faith Willinger author or "Red White & Green" (get it, it's awesome'. Arborio, i think is the most common supermarket variety in italy and used for other traditional rice dishes but the texture isn't right for risotto. It's better that Calrose though!
                      I tried that sushi rice thing once when there was no other in the house and it came out terrible!

                    2. re: aldente

                      Hey, I know you werent expecting textual criticism but I have two quotes from Faith Willinger for you on this topic. First, from "Red White and Green", p.8, I learned that first rate risotto requires firt-rate rice. Arborio from the supermaret will never yield the spectacular results of superior Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice"

                      Second, from the "Foods of Italy": "two rice varieties of Veneto are deemed by knowlegeable cooks to make the best risotto. The most traditional is vialone nano,....Carnaroli is harder to find, more sought after and more expensive."

                      Both of these types are readily available these days in the US and make up into lovely risotto.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        I meant no one recommended Arborio.

                        1. re: aldente

                          Evidently Faith didn't speak to Marcella. From "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" (1995): "Of the several varieties of rice for risotto that Italy produces, three are exceptional: Arborio, Vialone Nano, Carnaroli. ... [Arborio] is the rice of preference for the more compact styles of risotto that are popular in Lombardy, Piedmont, and Emilia-Romagna ..."

                          1. re: Miss Priss

                            I'm a little bit more inclined to trust Faith than Marcella because I get where she's coming from a lot more. I understand her food philosophy, it speaks to me. Besides, Marcella can't always be right, she's fond of boullion cubes, which frankly, I have tried because of the tendency of some good italian cooks like her to use them. They suck.

                            1. re: al dente

                              Well, hell. There is not even any conflict between the gods here. Faith Willinger is writing about venetian risottos, which are soupy and marcella's comment about arborio relates to the dryer risotto made in emilia romagna (where she is from) and milan.
                              Italy being italy, there are bound to be regional preferences and that is what you are seeing of one kind over the other. doesnt mean that one kind is universally better, or that you cant use a california or spanish med short grain successfully for risotto. were just talking Italian preferences here, based on their intimate involvement with the dishes they make.

                            2. re: Miss Priss

                              Oh. I should've read your post a little more carefully. I'm sure that must be true if she said it.

                        2. re: aldente

                          Oops i guess that was kind of confusing. Vialone nano recommended, arborio not.

                      2. thanks for the links. i read them all, and i think i finally get it. i made the risotto...took much longer than i thought it would, but it came out great! as soon as i added the liquid, i could practically see the starch come out of the rice and start to thicken it up. it acted completely different than regular long grain rice.

                        looking forward to trying other variations, and making risotto part of my regular repertoire!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: leah

                          Barley (look for 'Pearl Barley', the intact grain) can also be prepared in the same manner as risotto rice. It's super healthy and very inexpensive too!

                        2. Attached is a very good article on the different types of rice available. Some highlights:

                          "The more amylose a rice variety contains, the more liquid it can absorb and the less clingy it is after cooking."

                          "Carnaroli has the highest amylose content...it absorbs a lot of liquid, it offers a long window between cooked and overcooked, and it makes a creamy, flowing risotto, not a sticky one."

                          "Vialone Nano has almost as much amylose as Carnaroli and measures even lower on the stickiness charts. It is every Venetian chef's choice for risotto...because it produces the desirable all'onda (wavy) texture"

                          "Arborio and Baldo have significantly less amylose. Consequently, they absorb less liquid, take longer to cook and tend to produce a somewhat starchier, stickier risotto..."

                          "Vincenzo Cucco, chef at Bacco in San Francisco [nja: and consistently the maker of the best risotto that I have ever tried], stands firmly with Vialone Nano...Cucco is one of the only chefs in San Francisco to make risotto entirely to order, rather than pre-cooking the rice partway. 'I think (Vialone Nano) absorbs better the condiments...It's a little less forgiving than Carnaroli, easier to overcook, but it gives a little more starch.'"

                          From: Janet Fletcher, SF Chronicle, October 22, 2003

                          Link: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi...