A great deal of rice is grown in the north of Italy.
Rice its very important for our diet.
The type of rice that I have always used at home is the “Vialone nano semifino” variety.
This is a type of rice that comes from Mantua and is perfect for making risottos or pilafs.
Rice is often rather unpopular in a restaurant situation because of the time it takes to cook.
Eighteen minutes for hungry people can seem an eternity.
The venetian way of cooking rice its called “risotto”.
A good risotto should and must be eaten as a first dish.
Besides the “Vialone nano”, another excellent risotto rice is the “Carnaroli”. This has an extremely limited production and is very difficult to find in the shops.
There are many different ways of cooking a risotto, probably as many ways as there are people who adore it.
The saucepan is fundamental.
It must be made of a metal that conducts heat well.
I am often asked whether it is right to fry a little onion with a knob of butter, in the bottom of the pan before adding the uncooked rice.
Some years ago, I used to say no, but now I have changed my mind. With one reservation: always let the butter cool down before adding the rice as otherwise you may burn the starch.
When the rice has been thoroughly mixed with the onion in the bottom of the pan, light the gas again and heat the rice so that it does not stop simmering when the boiling stock is added.
BASIC RISOTTO (OR “ALLA PARMIGIANA”)
• 250 g of superfine rice, Vialone or Carnaroli
• 50 g of butter at room temperature
• 5 dessert spoons of olive oil
• 1/2 litres of chicken broth
• 1 small onion
• 100 g of grated parmesan (then what is needed to serve)
(Enough for 3 people)
Slowly boil the broth and keep it at a constant temperature. Warm the oil in a large saucepan and fry the finely chopped onion in it until it turns gold (about 3-5 minutes).
Add the rice and mix with a wooden spoon. Lower the flame, add 2-3 ladles of broth, and stirring it, bring it to the boil. Stage by stage, as the broth is absorbed, add another portion of broth and cook until it is all absorbed (about 18-20 minutes).
If the risotto has a tendency to stick, put a mesh on the flame or turn down the heat.
The rice must be cooked, but with grains that are separate and al dente. If it is still not yet cooked when you have finished the broth, add boiling water, always a ladle at a time. Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter and parmesan and stir well. The risotto will then be more creamy. Adjust for salt.
Continuing to mix, pour in the remaining spoonfuls of broth to make the dish softer. We call this effect all’onda (wavy). Serve it accompanied with a side dish of grated parmesan. For the smallest children I cream it with olive oil or a little soft processed cheese.
You prepare a Risotto giallo (‘yellow risotto”) in the same way, adding to the broth towards the end of the cooking time, a sachet of saffron.