Risotto lovers know that northern Italians make some of the best of it, largely due to the variety of specialty grains grown and harvested there. More than 20 varieties of white rice are grown in Italy, with a large majority flourishing in Veneto, Piedmont and the fertile Po Valley.
The rice varieties listed below may all look the same, but they command distinctly different uses since they possess varied flavors and textures. Some are ideal for producing toothsome, creamy risottos, while others are delicate enough to work deftly into desserts. Here are some of our most readily available styles and some brands to look for:
Originario: Marked by its small, pearl-like appearance, this was the go-to for risotto until Carnaroli was created in 1945 and took its place. Though still a fine risotto rice, its softer texture also works for soups and desserts; great also for asian food as sushi and stir fry. This variety comes from the Novara province of Piedmont.
Carnaroli With large oval grains that have especially high starch, it makes a velvety risotto with strong texture. For this reason, it¹s the most popular risotto rice. This lauded producer has been in Piedmont's Vercelli province since 1935.
Arborio One of the most well-known Italian rices, its burnished kernels and high starch content create a creamy coating when cooked. Ideal for risotto, soups and pilaf, this brand comes from the Po Valley.
Vialone Nano: Common in the Veneto region, Vialone Nano is shorter and rounder than other varietals, and also absorbs more liquid, which gives it a creamier base in cooking. Delicate and moist, it¹s a no-brainer for matching with seafood and vegetables.