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A creamy Italian rice dish made with starchy, short-grained Italian rice varieties. A basic recipe for risotto includes onions that are lightly sautéed in butter into which rice is added and cooked briefly. Liquid is added in small increments to allow the rice to absorb the liquid gradually. The rice is stirred constantly, releasing the starch in the rice, which acts as a thickener and results in a very creamy dish that is finished with the addition of grated hard cheese and butter.

Arborio is the variety of rice that is most often used to make risotto, but many people prefer carnaroli, which is even better than arborio in absorbing liquid and maintaining its shape and structure. Other Italian rice varieties that are often used for risotto are vialone nano, baldo, and roma.

Many varieties of Italian rice have characteristics unlike rice from any other part of the world, which makes them the best choices for risotto. Italian rice has a high level of amylopectin, which is a soft, translucent starch that dissolves in the cooking liquid and acts as a natural thickener. The outer amylopectin layers of the rice kernel surround the inner amylose, which is a hard, opaque starch that does not readily dissolve during the cooking process. The properties of these two starches allows Italian rice to absorb large volumes of liquid, becoming very creamy, while allowing the texture of the inner portion of the grains to remain somewhat firm, or “al dente”. It is important not to rinse Italian rice varieties before cooking in order to retain both the flavor of the rice and the natural thickening properties of the starch that are so important for a successful result. Risotto is also known as Pella.

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