Risotto Rice: Arborio versus Carnaroli

I took a risotto cooking class at Il Forniao in June, had a great time and learned how to improve my risotto cooking technique. The risotto we made in the class was wonderful. The risotto rice that is easiest to find in America is arborio. You can get it in any supermarket in the rice section. What I didn’t know is that there are two other types of rice that make a better risotto: vialone nano and carnaroli. One of the secrets the chef mentioned was that at Il Fornaio they only use carnaroli rice. Armed with this recommendation I decided to see if there was a marked difference.

First, I had to find a place to purchase the rice. None of the supermarkets I frequent had anything other than arborio rice (sometimes the label just says risotto rice, but when you look at the ingredients it is arborio). Luckily San Diego has a Little Italy neighborhood. I stopped at Fillipi’s Pizza Grotto because I knew they had a deli along with the restaurant. Unfortunately, all they had was arborio rice. However, when I asked someone just to make sure he suggested I try another restaurant with a deli, Mona Lisa Italian Foods, just a few blocks north. Here I struck gold (or at least rice). They had all three types of rice so I bought a box of carnaroli which was only a little more than the arborio.

This past weekend we conducted the test. Although I wanted to make changes to my previous risotto recipe (e.g., adding a roasted bell pepper), I decided to make it exactly the same way and only change the rice. It was a smashing success. The arborio rice made a looser risotto with most of the flavor in the creamy sauce while the carnaroli rice absorbed more of the flavors and brought the ingredients together in a wonderful way. The drier result with the carnaroli rice had a better texture and made a better presentation.

Hands down, we will only be using carnaroli rice for risotto in my house from now on.

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8 responses to “Risotto Rice: Arborio versus Carnaroli

  1. My Dad used to put pieces of fres mozzarella
    cheese, peas, thin slices of mushroon buttons
    and mix well with just enough of his pasta “gravy”. He would then take small hand-fulls and make them into “croquettes”. Roll in beaten egg and then in seasoned (Italian) bread crumbs and fry. The cheese woul melt through the rice and the flavors… fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are talking about arancini. They are wonderful to eat but we don’t do much frying here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Richard Tebaldi

        Yeah, but without sauce around Western MA. I just had another and thought “for 10 bucks I’ll make 3 of these all day long”! I’m assuming the “gravy” is a red sauce? Where my folks came from, just below Rimini, on the Adriatic Sea, What we call “gravy” is a mushroom sauce.

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      • Richard Tebaldi

        I FORGOT to say, How about using an Air fryer? Alson Lucia’s family dressed those rice balls up nicely! I made “arancini” with a leftover risotto once. Much better than the majority of restaurants around here. Better home made and served with friends.

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  2. Pingback: Dinner for 2, cooked by 2 – mushroom risotto with truffle | lifevsstyle

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  4. I can not find carnalori either, all I have to go on is with arborio.. Thankf sor sharing though, I will get whenever I have the chance!

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  5. Richard Tebaldi

    You’re right! When I wasn’t looking for Carnaroli, It seemed to be in several stores. A few years later….GONE! I actually got a few pounds in Florida. Not cheap. I wondered if you didn’t cook the Arborio as long as they say….would that work? I gotta try that!

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