The Right Way to Make Risotto

Viale Nano and Arborio are widely considered the best varieties of rice for risotto, as they have wonderful nutty flavor and can absorb a great deal of liquid without losing their fine texture. Each has a high starch content, which accounts for the creamy sauce that is created during cooking.

There are other rices that are excellent for risotto and are very commonly used in Piemonte and Lombardia, the two Italian homes of risotto. One is Carnaroli, a relatively new rice that has higher starch content than Arborio and lends risotto an even richer creaminess. "It's what we all use around here," said Signor Annibile, a rice grower in Piemonte. "It has better flavor and texture, even if everyone else thinks Arborio is the best."

When making risotto, there are keys to its quality, primarily patience and hot liquid. Keep the liquid almost at a boil and add it judiciously as indicated in the recipe. Don't be tempted to hurry, for the risotto won't appreciate it. A two-minute sitting period after cooking is essential for risotto as well, to allow the flavors to blend.

Rice will keep well for about one year from harvest. Although that sounds like a generous length of time, most of us don't have any idea when our rice was harvested, so it's impossible to gauge freshness correctly. Therefore, it is best to buy rice from a reputable source and use it as soon as possible. If you don't eat rice often, it is really a waste of money to buy it in large amounts. Instead, buy smaller quantities as needed. Rice will keep on a cupboard shelf stored in an airtight container. You may also freeze it.

When serving risotto, using a large serving spoon, scoop a spoonful out of the pan and gently lay it on the center of a plate -- it should retain the shape of the spoon's bowl. Follow this scoop with two others, placing one on either side of the first scoop. To eat the risotto, move it out toward the edge of the plate so it cools, leaving the rest in the scoop where it will stay hot.

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