At the height of the Roman empire, rice was such a rare and unusual import that the bewildered Romans decided to utilize it in the crafting of pottery. No accounting for taste! Anyway, these days we understand the value of great rice a little better and Italy has now gone on to become the largest rice producer in Europe. Add to that the accolade of creating the delectable dish of Risotto and one can start to understand why Italians take pride in their rice dishes.
The history of risotto
Rice was first introduced to Sicily by the Moors and Saracens in the Middle Ages. It began to take off in a big way in the Northern province of Lombard where plains where cleared for use as rice paddies. The then Duke of Milan had woken up to the idea that rice might be good for more than just creating pretty ashtrays and pottery containers and aimed to bring about a ricelotion! Naturally enough then, the first Risotto was created in Milan. Rice had become a staple of the city and the starchy, short-grained rice that thrived in the Italian climate was found to blend perfectly with stock to create a thick, creamy sauce. Thus came into being the famous Risotto alla Milanese!
Best varieties of rice to cook a great risotto
We’ve gone on a bit about the rice and with good reason. Risotto is a versatile dish but getting the correct rice is about as important as putting the right kind of petrol in your Ferrari. Short grained rices are ideal if you want something with a high starch content. Try Carnaroli for the creamiest of Risottos. It is also forgiving when it comes to the inexperienced cook. Arborio is not as forgiving or cream-inducing as Carnaroli, but it is easier to come across. Vialone Nano is a great choice as it can only be grown organically and has a whole load of starch packed in for tasty Risotto creations.
The risotto alla milanese
Risotto is an easy dish to create. The secret is the slow cooking of the rice. All you have to do is heat up some butter and ingredients in a pan, fry the rice lightly and then slowly ladle in your stock over time until the rice has absorbed it all. Not so dramatic now it is? The classic dish Risotto alla Milanese contains butter, finely chopped onion, white wine, around 3 cups of stock, some salt, saffron and grated Parmesan Cheese. What is greatest about Risotto is that you can whack in just about any kind of stock your heart desires and get great results. So go nuts you creative cats!
Italian traditional risottos
If you are not one for experimentation then you should feel free to stick to the classics. Aside from the staple Risotto alla Milanese, risotto ai funghi porcini is very similar in its ingredients, simply requiring the addition of mushrooms and Porcini instead of saffron to complete the picture. Some other great recipes to try out include Risotto alla Pescatora, with fish, and Risotto con la Zucca (pumpkin).
Risotto has become a global dish for good reason. It is easy to create, has a lot a variety built into it and is also exceedingly tasty. Come and discover the real Italian risotto in our stores!