While Italy is best known for their pasta. There exist a second grain that is a major part of their diet, Rice. Their rice is grown and designed specifically to make the dish Risotto. It is a rice dish with a creamy exterior with an interior with a slight chew. However, there are a few different variation to rice. The Best Italian Rice will produce the creamiest exterior with a chew in the center. Two of the most popular is arborio and carnaroli. Both are slightly different however, one commands a much higher price.
Best Italian Rice for Risotto
The best rice will have generally be the same shape and size. This will ensure that you have even cooking and absorption of liquid. If you have a wide variety of rice, they will cook at a different rate. Better manufacturer of rice will try to keep the size of the rice even. They will also age the rice for at least three month to get rid of excess moisture. This will ensure that more broth get absorbed into the rice.
Principato Di Lucedio Carnaroli Rice
Principato Di Lucedio Carnaroli Rice is one of the best rice for risotto on the market. They offer true authentic caranoli rice. You should be able to get the creamiest texture for your dish. Just be aware, of the price that you will pay. It is significantly more than your standard rice.
History of Italian Rice
Rice was brought into Italy around 500 B.c. It was initially used for medicine instead of food. It wasnt until the Fifteenth century that rice was used for consumption. Rice was a great way to tackle the famine that was taking over italy. Rice was often combined with other grains to make grool.
Today, rice is more commonly eaten in risotto form. They can be seen in any high end restaurants mixed with Parmesan, truffle, and even panchetta.
Best Italian Rice Varieties
Italian rice is different from the rice eaten in Asian and America. In Asia, there will be a mix of both long grain and short grain rice. These rice are mostly eaten plain with other dish. In the states, long grain rice is more common. These rice are mostly sold is box which are preseason to make pilaf. All of which serves a different purpose than Italian Rice.
While Italian Rice is technically short grain rice, Italian Rice is unique because of its structure. The exterior of Italian rice consist mainly of Amylopectin which converts easily to liquid. The inner core of the rice is composed of Amylose. When cooked correctly, the rice will have a soft creamy exterior with a interior that has a slight chew. This is otherwise known as being Al Dente.
Arborio vs Carnaroli Rice for Risotto
Arborio rice is the most common rice used in the States for Risotto. The issue is that often time manufacturer will carry fakes or other genetic modification for these rice. Compared to Carnaroli rice, they are shorter and have less of a starch content then Carnaroli rice. Currently, arborio rice production in Italy accounts for less then 10 percent. Other places such as California can also grow Arborio rice. Having said that, Arborio rice can still make a good Risotto.
Carnaroli on the other hand is known as the best rice for Risotto. It has a slightly longer grain than Arborio and holds much more liquid than Arborio rice. It Italy, Carnaroli rice is only one percent of the country production. Its only grown in northern Italy province of Pavia, Novara and Vercelli. As such, true authentic Caranroli rice is quite pricey.
How to Tell if you have good Rice?
This is the biggest issue. Most consumers wouldnt be able to tell the difference. Some manufacturer are also deceptive in their branding and marketing. Italian grade rice based on the size of the rice. There are four different categories. Originario, Semifinos, finos and Superfinos. Superfinos are generally the rice that is used for Risotto. Any rice that is under the category of Superfino can be labeled as any type of rice such as Arborio or Carnaroli. This is true even if its not the same type of rice. Some manufacturer even mix in other type of rice and claim it as authentic rice.
The only way you can be sure that you get true Italian rice is if you look for a seal by a group of rice grower in Italy. They are known as “Consorzio di tutela e valorizzazione delle varieta tipiche di riso italiano d delle sue tradizioni”. Unfortunately I could not find their website online. However, the seal will look like a Stork. Once such rice that carries their seal is by Principato Di Lucedio.
In conclusion, Italians take their rice seriously. Its not as simple as just getting a rice and making risotto. Its the dedication of the quality of their ingredients that makes their food so good. After all, half of the cooking is done by selecting the right ingredients.
Want more information about Italian food? Check out the article on Polenta and how it came about.