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Risotto is a gooey and creamy rice dish from the Italian cuisine. This traditional savory rice dish, also known as "short rice" consists of rice mixed with other ingredients like Parmesan cheese, meat or vegetables and is cooked in broth. A medley of different types of vegetables is also added to the risotto. Being versatile, this can be made with different types of ingredients to suit varied palates. Popular risotto recipes include those made with porcini mushrooms, chicken, sausages or zucchini. Seafood risotto dishes are also very popular. They can be made with cuttlefish, truffles or quail. The risotto is eaten as a staple food by the Italians, though it can also be served as an appetizer.

History of Risotto

The history of risotto is an interesting one. Rice had been introduced to the Italian cuisine by the immigrant Arabs in Sicily. The climatic and geographical makeup of Italy, with the humid weather and flat land contours, was conducive for the cultivation of rice especially of the short grained variety, which is mostly used for making the risotto. The invention of the dish is particularly interesting. It was accidentally invented by Valerius, a 1574 artist, who was responsible for painting the window of the Cathedral Duomo Di Milano. As the story goes, people had humiliated his work and appreciated the saffron color in his work. To take revenge, he used saffron in the rice preparations made for the marriage party of his master wishing that it should bring bad comments about the food being served. But on the contrary, the wrongly intentioned ingredient gained immense appreciation and since then it was deliberately used in the Italian rice preparations thus giving birth to what is known as the risotto today.

Ingredients Used for Risotto Recipes

Risotto is made using four mandatory ingredients, namely, rice, a flavoring agent, sautéed vegetables and a cooking medium called broth. The vegetable mixture, called Soffritto, is a herbed and spiced mixture. The, Soffritto an Italian variant of the French Mirepoix is made by sautéing garlic, fennel, and leeks in olive oil and not in butter. Risotto is made of rice of different varieties. Arborio rice is always the rice of choice for the dish as it contains superfine grains which have the capacity to absorb the broth while cooking without over-cooking the dish. Vialone Nano( a variety of short grained rice), Carnaroli, and baldo are the other varieties of ricesthat are used for making risotto. The three varieties of rice are semifino and the latter varieties are used when the dish is to be made with strong flavoring and with usage of more condiments. Gourmet risotto is made with special ingredients like pork, mushrooms or butternut pumpkin amongst others along with the normal rice.

Preparation of Risotto Recipes

Risotto was believed to be intended to be a type of a rice porridge originally and so was cooked in a way to retain its creamy and starchy texture. Risotto recipes recommended not washing the rice prior to cooking as that will make it lose its starch which is an essential ingredient of the traditional version of the dish. The rice and vegetables are toasted lightly and then cooked in broth till done. A little wine may be added if desired. The rice is cooked gradually over a low flame till done. The broth is added to the rice constantly and stirred till done. The broth should be carefully added as adding too much of it at the end may simply result in it being overcooked. Serving Risotto Rissotto, being a heavy dish should be served in served in small amounts. It should not be too thick nor too thin so that it runs on the plate. If it is thick it can always be thinned down with some cooking liquid before serving. Ideally it should spread easily on the plate and should have a creamy appearance.

Popular Risotto recipes

• Risotto ala Milanese – this dish is made by cooking in beef stock and beef bone marrow with lard. Cheese and saffron are used in the dish. This dish is popularly served with osso buco( a dish consisting of braised veal shanks).

• Risotto al barolo – this is a Piedmont specialty and is made with borlotii beans and sausage meat and is cooked with red wine.

• Risotto al nero de seppia (balck risotto) – this is a specialty from Veneto and is made with cuttlefish.

• Risi e bisi – also popular as rice and peas, this is another typical soup of Veneto. But it is so thick that it can be considered a risotto more than a soup with Pancetta flavoring. However it is ideally served with a spoon and not a fork.

• Risotto made with other ingredients – in many regions of Italy, risotto is made with other ingredients like barely and other cereals.