The essence of Italian food is simplicity: a few seasonal ingredients and basic cooking techniques can produce all those delicious dishes that are now famous all over the world. Risotto is one of them. Made by combining rice with a few ingredients of choice, its very first recipe originates from Northern Italy where rice – introduced by the Arabs in the Middle Ages – has been grown since the 14th century. The humidity of that area is ideal for the cultivation of those shorter-grained varieties which, after so many centuries, are still used to prepare a main course that easily rivals pasta.
Versatility is what makes risotto so popular: one could try a different recipe every single day of the year and not run out of new combinations of flavours to experiment. Staple recipes are Risotto alla Milanese (with saffron), Risotto alla Trevigiana (with radicchio), Risotto alla Parmigiana (with Parmigiano cheese) and Risotto ai Funghi (with mushrooms); however, nowadays many chefs in the world are opting for seasonal and local ingredients thus creating new versions of this dish which are just as enjoyable as the classic ones. Whatever the ingredients, the perfect Italian risotto should be all’onda, that is creamy without being runny. Cooking times may vary depending on the type of rice used; still, it always needs to be cooked to a consistency that equals al dente for pasta, with each single grain slightly firm to the bite.
With a significant 52% of the entire European rice production, our country boasts about 200 local varieties to choose from. Up until 2016 they were divided into four categories: comune, semifino, fino and superfino; then in 2017 the Ente Nazionale Risi – the national body that safeguards the quality of the rice produced in Italy – changed this classification and now Italian rice is differentiated according to the grain size. When it comes to making risotto, the best varieties are Arborio and Carnaroli. Despite the simplicity of its preparation, this dish may result time-consuming for those who have a hectic lifestyle: for this reason, the latest trend in the market is fast cooking, ready-to-eat risotto that significantly reduces the cooking time without giving up on quality.