|Place of origin||Lombardy, Italy|
|Main ingredients||rice, broth, butter, onion, white wine|
Risotto // (Italian: [riˈzɔtto] or [riˈsɔtto], from riso meaning "rice") is a northern Italian rice dish cooked in a broth to a creamy consistency. The broth can be derived from meat, fish, or vegetables. Many types of risotto contain butter, wine, onion, and parmesan cheese. It is one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy. Saffron was originally used for flavour and its attractive yellow colour.
Risotto in Italy is normally a primo (first course), served on its own before the main course, but risotto alla milanese, (pronounced [riˈzɔtto alla milaˈneːze]), is often served together with ossobuco alla milanese.
Rice was grown in southern Italy since the 14th century, and eventually reached Milano in the northern region of Italy. While according to a legend a young glassblower apprentice from Flanders who used to use saffron as a pigment added it to a rice dish at a wedding feast, the first recipe identifiable as risotto dates from 1809. It includes rice sautéed in butter, sausages, bone marrow, onions with hot broth with saffron gradually added. There is a recipe for a dish named as a risotto in the 1854 Trattato di cucina (Treatise on Cooking) by Giovanni Vialardi, assistant chief chef to kings. However, the question of who invented the risotto in Milano remains unanswered today.
A high-starch (amylopectin), low-amylose round medium- or short- grain white rice is usually used for making risotto. Such rices have the ability to absorb liquids and to release starch and so they are stickier than the long grain varieties. The principal varieties used in Italy are Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, Padano, Roma, and Vialone Nano. Carnaroli, Maratelli (historical Italian variety) and Vialone Nano are considered to be the best (and most expensive) varieties, with different users preferring one over another. They have slightly different properties. For example, Carnaroli is less likely than Vialone Nano to get overcooked, but the latter, being smaller, cooks faster and absorbs condiments better. Other varieties such as Roma, Baldo, Ribe and Originario may be used but will not have the creaminess of the traditional dish; these varieties are considered better for soups and other non-risotto rice dishes, and sweet rice desserts. Rice designations of superfino, semifino and fino refer to the size and shape (specifically the length and the narrowness) of the grains, and not the quality.
There are many different risotto recipes with different ingredients, but they are all based on rice of an appropriate variety, cooked in a standard procedure. Risotto, unlike other rice dishes, requires constant care and attention. The rice is not to be pre-rinsed, boiled, or drained, as washing would remove much of the starch required for a creamy texture.
The rice is first cooked briefly in a soffritto of onion and butter or olive oil, to coat each grain in a film of fat, called tostatura; white wine is added and must be absorbed by the grains. When it has been absorbed the heat is raised to medium high, and boiling stock is gradually added in small amounts, while stirring constantly. The constant stirring, with only a small amount of liquid present, forces the grains to rub against each other and release the starch molecules from the outside of the grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured mass. When the rice is cooked the pot is taken off the heat for mantecatura, vigorously beating in refrigerated balls of grated parmesan cheese and butter, to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier and left to cook with its residual heat.
Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy even if no cream is added, due to the starch in the grains. It has some resistance or bite (al dente) and separate grains. The traditional texture is fairly fluid, or all'onda ("wavy, or flowing in waves"). It is served on flat dishes and should easily spread out but not have excess watery liquid around the perimeter. It must be eaten at once, as it continues to cook in its own heat, making the grains absorb all the liquid and become soft and dry.
Italian regional variations
Many variations have their own names:
|Risotto alla milanese||A specialty of Milan, made with beef stock, beef bone marrow, lard (instead of butter) and cheese, flavored and colored with saffron|
|Risotto al Barolo||A specialty of Piedmont, made with red wine and may include sausage meat and/or Borlotti beans|
|Risotto al nero di seppia||A specialty of the Veneto region, made with cuttlefish cooked with their ink-sacs intact leaving the risotto black|
|Risi e bisi||A Veneto spring dish that is correctly served with a spoon, not a fork; it is a soup so thick it looks like a risotto. It is made with green peas using the stock from the fresh young pods, flavored with pancetta.|
|Risotto alla zucca||Made with pumpkin, nutmeg, and grated cheese|
|Risotto alla pilota||A specialty of Mantua, made with sausage, pork, and Parmesan cheese|
|Risotto ai funghi||A variant made with mushrooms such as porcini, boletus luteus, pholiota mutabilis or agaricus bisporus|
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|Look up Risotto in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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