Arborio, Carnaroli, Roma, Baldo are just some of the most common types of rice on the market; in fact, trying to draw up a list, there are more than 140 varieties of rice present in Italy alone and more than 130,000 in the world, not counting the Asian subspecies, where the number is growing exponentially.
All these varieties can confuse us leading us to make a wrong choice and therefore irreversibly ruin our beloved risotto.
How to choose the right rice?
How do we unravel the many variations on the shelves?
Here is a simple guide with which you will have less difficulty choosing.
Grading of rice grains
The first thing you need to know is that: THERE IS NO PERFECT VARIETY FOR RISOTTO, but there is ONE perfect variety based on THE TYPE OF RISOTTO we are going to prepare.
You must bear in mind that according to the type of grain and the properties of the cooking resistance, rice is divided into four large groups:
– Common (or Round): Small and round grains (>5.2 mm). Cooking time: 12 – 13 mins.
– Semifine: Rounded grains of medium length or semi-long (between 5.2 and 6.2 mm). Cooking time: 13 – 15 mins.
– Thin: Long, tapered and semi-tapered grains (<6 mm). Cooking time: 14 – 16 mins.
– Superfine: Big, long and very long grains. Cooking time: 16 – 18 mins.
Having said this we must now know what kind of risotto we want to prepare; each category of rice has unique properties that will give a different result depending on the type chosen.
Considering that rice in the "common" category is excluded a priori for risotto, it has the characteristic of absorbing the seasoning, increasing the volume of the grain and is usually used for soups, timbales and arancini.
They include Balilla rice and Original rice.
“Semifino” category: this category includes: Argo, Cripto, Lido, Padano, Vialone Nano rice.
This category of rice is very valuable because, being the grain rich in starch, it becomes creamy and the aroma of this variety intensifies. The small and rounded grains absorb liquids and condiments, releasing the right amount of starch but ATTENTION!
This type of rice DOES NOT WANT to be creamed with a ladle as it has a strong tendency to break during preparation; it is therefore recommended to cream it with a wave and with the heat off.
Furthermore, this quality of rice is strongly recommended for risottos with vegetables or game.
"Fino" category: It has a compact consistency, resists cooking well and is suitable for the preparation of risottos, complex preparations and rice salads. It is recommended for the preparation of sweets but it is necessary to prolong the cooking in order to overcook it.
Furthermore, this category is divided into two subgroups:
– MEDIUM: Europe Rice, Loto Rice, Riva Rice
– Long type A: Drago rice, Ribe rice, Sant'Andrea rice.
The substantial difference between these two groups lies in the length of the grain which in type A exceeds 6mm.
“Superfino” category: Characterized by elongated grains and a solid consistency, it has a high starch content but, compared to other varieties, it holds better during slow cooking, so it is particularly suitable for preparing risottos. They maintain their consistency, remain distinct from each other and absorb liquids, aromas and condiments up to tripling their size. The high seal allows it to withstand even prolonged cooking.
This category includes: Carnaroli rice, Roma rice and Baldo and Arborio.
Carnaroli is one of the most used products to prepare both sea and land risottos, and is particularly suitable for rice salads as it maintains al dente cooking even in very long cooking times.
A separate discussion must be made for Arborio rice. It is part of the "Superfino" but does not have its same characteristics. In fact, this rice is characterized by a grain with a poor consistency, which overcooks quickly and releases a lot of starch during cooking. It never stays al dente, but the flavors are well absorbed and it is highly recommended in preparing creamy risottos made with earth.
We recommend relatively short cooking times and particular attention to toasting which must not be too intense.
Remember that in any case everything always depends on your personal tastes and subjective skills in the kitchen, but always remember that the hours spent on the stove will always pay off, especially when mistakes are made.
Having said that, try the differences between the various types of rice for yourself and have fun behind the stove, trying and experimenting, letting us know what you think and which type of rice you like to use.
Greetings from Ale&Giù!