Italy is known for its traditional, cultural, and historical culinary heritage, giving birth to some of the world’s best dishes and beverages, such as pasta, wines, cheese wheels, and more.
One of Italy’s great contributions to food is arborio rice, which is primarily used to cook delicious and comforting dishes, such as risotto. But, first, what is arborio rice, and what makes it special compared to varieties?
Arborio rice is a short-grain and pearl-shaped rice, and a part of the rice species called Oryza sativa japonica. Unlike other varieties of rice, when arborio rice is cooked, it becomes chewy and firm due to its high amylopectin starch content.
Moreover, this high amount of starch is responsible for making other dishes cooked with arborio rice rich and creamy. Also, it has a mild and starchy taste that perfectly combines with other flavors. So, what are excellent and flavorful ways of cooking arborio rice?
1. Make A Flavorful Risotto
Arborio rice is primarily used when making risotto, making it known worldwide as risotto rice. When cooking risotto, you first need to bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. When it boils, reduce the heat to low and proceed with the next step.
In a separate casserole, preferably a Dutch oven, sauté onions with melted butter, until they become soft and translucent, in medium heat. Then, add garlic and let it cook for 45 seconds until it releases its flavorful oils and becomes fragrant.
After cooking the aromatics, add the arborio rice and season it with salt until it becomes translucent for three to five minutes. Then, add a partial amount or a ladle of broth to the rice. Wait for the broth to be fully absorbed by the rice before adding another one, and do this consistently until rice is al dente.
When the risotto is perfectly cooked, add Parmesan cheese, pepper, and more butter until well-incorporated. Then, let it rest to help all the flavors combine, and serve more cheese and extra butter.
2. Make A Crispy Arancini
Arancini is an Italian rice ball covered in bread crumbs and deep-fried until golden brown. Arancini is pretty easy to make—all you need to prepare are arborio rice, oil for deep-frying, bread crumbs, and other ingredients for stuffing.
When making arancini, start by seasoning the broth with salt and bringing it to a boil over medium heat. When the broth boils, reduce the heat, add the arborio rice, and simmer it for 20 minutes until the rice becomes soft and tender. After that, you may remove it from the saucepan and transfer it into a non-stick baking pan and let it cool.
When the rice cools down, add the egg and breadcrumbs, and stir until well-combined. Then, start forming balls and stuffing them with a mixture of pine nuts and cheese. After this, coat each ball in breadcrumbs and deep fry it until golden brown. Then, place them on a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess grease.
3. Cook A Savory Spanish Paella
Another flavorful way to cook your arborio rice is by making a traditional paella. Spanish paella is known worldwide for its complex flavors brought by different ingredients, such as stock, seafood, spices, and more. However, cooking Spanish paella is no easy task as each step needs to be done perfectly.
The basic ingredients of cooking paella are toppings (squid, scallops, and more), arborio rice, garlic, onion, seafood or chicken broth, fresh or canned tomatoes, bell peppers, and saffron.
Start by searing the toppings. After that, remove and set them aside, and on the same pan, sauté onions and garlic until they become translucent. Then, add the rice and constantly stir until it becomes fully coated in oil. Next, add the broth and let it simmer for 10 minutes uncovered, without stirring.
After 10 minutes, you’ll notice that the rice has absorbed most of the stock. Then, it’s time to add other toppings, such as shrimps and mussels, and let them cook for eight more minutes. Voila! Your Spanish paella is ready to serve.
4. Make A Creamy Rice Pudding
Do you want to eat some desserts using arborio rice? You may want to try making a sweet and creamy arborio rice pudding.
When making a rice pudding, start by bringing water, salt, and butter to a boil. And, when it boils, reduce the heat and add the arborio rice. Then, occasionally stir the pan for 15 minutes until most of the water has been absorbed by the rice, making it al dente.
After cooking the rice, simmer other ingredients in a separate pan, such as milk, vanilla, and sugar. Then, add the cooked arborio rice and let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes over medium flame until the mixture becomes thick and creamy.
After cooking the mixture, let it cool to room temperature and place it in the fridge to set. When serving, you may also add an extra dash of cinnamon or a dollop of whipped cream, and that’s it.
Arborio rice is one of the greatest gifts given by Italy to mankind. It’s responsible for making every dish rich, comforting, and creamy. One of the best ways to cook arborio rice is making risotto, an all-time Italian comfort food. However, don’t limit yourself to ideas suggested above. Think outside the box and let your creativity flow in.
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