Italian cuisine is known worldwide especially due to pasta and pizza. But another popular dish in Italy is rice.
Home to the best rice growing area in Italy
Also Italy is the leading producer of rice in Europe with the majority of it being grown in the Po river valley. Lombardy is home to the best rice growing area, the Lomellina, while Piedmont and Veneto also have bountiful rice harvests. First courses of risotto are even more common than pasta in the area.
It is not exactly known when rice was introduced to Italy, but it was most likely during Middle Ages. The country mostly grows short, barrel shaped rice which comes in four categories based on grain size: commune, semifino, fino and superfino. The superfine type of rice is most used for risotto with Arborio being the most recognized outside Italy. Although Venetian cooks prefer the Carnaroli variety, Baldo is another well-known type for making excellent risotto.
A well prepared risotto is the most delicious dish you may ever eat. Risotto is made with great care, braising the rice and allowing it to absorb broth. The special rice used in the preparation lends its starches to the cooking liquid, giving the risotto a rich consistency that in some ways resembles a heavy cream sauce. The actual braising of the rice is a standard procedure starting with the rice being toasted with chopped onion, garlic, carrots and celery, sautéd in olive oil, before broth is ladled in slowly. What make each risotto unique are local ingredients giving the dish its character.
Risotto alla Milanese is arguably the most famous Italian rice dish: it is flavored with saffron and resembles Spanish paella. In Piedmont it is not unusual to find risotto with truffles or made with red Barolo wine. In Veneto and especially the city of Venice, seafood risotto is a main dish with sautéed eels being a Christmas tradition.