The history of risotto: rules for this traditional dish

Risotto is heart-warming, elegant and versatile dish, with the rich rice flavour able to accommodate hundreds of different ingredients. The rice is the star when it comes to risotto and it is important to use the right variety to soak up the flavours from your stock.

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Rice has been a staple in the Italian diet since it was introduced to the country by the Arabs in the Middle Ages; however, it was in Milan that the delicious risotto was born. Slow cooking dominated the culinary landscape in and around Milan, with the classic meat dish osso buco a firm favourite. These cooking principles were used to create risotto alla Milanese, which could be served by itself or as a side dish alongside osso buco and other dishes. Today, the dish still uses the core components of rice, stock, butter, wine, parmesan and saffron, to which other ingredients such as scallops, lobster, squid ink, truffles and mushrooms are added.

Best rice for risotto

It is important to get the rice right for this classic Italian dish. You need a starchy rice to achieve the creamy texture that is the hallmark of a good risotto. The constant stirring while cooking releases the starch, which dissolves into and thickens the stock. You will need a short-grain or medium-grain, plump rice with a high starch content that holds up to the constant stirring. You can buy specially-marked risotto rice; alternatively, carnaroli – the king of risotto rice – produces the creamiest dishes. Arborio is the most widely-available type, while vialone nano has a high starch content.

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Where to try risotto

Why not put yourself in the hands of a master and go out to one of Dublin Italian restaurants to try risotto? The chefs have been making risottos for years and will have a variety of flavours for you to try. Its scene is vibrant and you can be assured of a great night out.

You can make risotto at home, but you will need the right pan – a large aluminium or stainless steel pan at least three inches tall will do the job. You also need a lot of patience, as you must continually stir the rice and add the stock one ladleful at a time, which will take about 20 minutes of your undivided attention.