The risotto culture had birth in Italy in the mid-19th century. In Northern Italy, to be specific: Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna. After nearly 170 years, the risotto is one of the most representative dishes of our country around the world, hand in hand with pasta and pizza.
Italian grandmothers and great-grandmothers, as well as traditional recipe books, passed on the custom to start its preparation by browning onion in butter and olive oil, add rice, sizzle it and simmer it with white wine, and at last gradually add the warm stock.
Christian Costardi, a young chef who manages the restaurant “Cinzia” in Vercelli (one Michelin star on the 2018 guide) with his brother Manuel, has created an evolution of this world-famous specialty by looking at history. The Michelin-starred chef has dug back into the origin of the sauté as the first step of the preparation.
In the past, rice in Italy was transported in large jute bags. Jute is a perfect fabric to carry cereals and other products, but has one flaw: it has a strong odour, which it conveyed to the rice – a very porous cereal that absorbs anything around it. Therefore, commencing the preparation by sautéing the onion and sizzling the rice had this specific purpose: to remove the jute smell.
Today, Italian rice no longer travels in jute, thus beginning the preparation of risotto as tradition tells is only useful if we want our dish to have a distinguished taste of onion and wine. Chef Christian Costardi thus presents a “lite” version of the recipe. First of all, you heat a pan as it is and then – without the use of any form of fat – you add the rice and toast it until it is warm. Afterwards, you start adding the vegetable, meat, or fish stock until the rice is cooked, while you toss in the other ingredients to customize the dish.
Rice in Italy
140,000 types of rice exist worldwide, of which 126 are registered in Italy, earning the country 1st place in European production. All rice varieties branch from 3 subspecies: Indica, Japonica, and Javanica. Japonica is the most farmed subspecies in Italy, and is the one generally used to make risotto dishes.