What is Arborio Rice?
Arborio is a variety of superfine rice originating from Italy, precisely one of the largest types within the short Italian rice variants in the species Oryza sativa japonica. It takes its name from the town of Arborio in the northwestern region of Piedmont in Italy. Arborio rice is high in the starch amylopectin and is responsible for the creamy texture in dishes like risotto. Its grains are oval-shaped, roughly a quarter of an inch long, and usually white.
These high-starch kernels, grown in northern Italy, are shorter and more rounded than other short-grain rice varieties. Upon cooking, the grains soften while maintaining a chalky centre. Arborio rice is the traditional choice for risotto, as its starch is released during cooking, contributing to the desired creamy texture.
Arborio rice is easily accessible in most supermarkets and delicatessens, sometimes simply labelled 'risotto rice'. If Arborio is unavailable, Carnaroli risotto rice serves as a suitable alternative.
Once the packaging is opened, the rice should be stored in an airtight container. If you've bought your rice in a sack, keep it in a clean, dry container with a lid.
Cooked Arborio rice should be stored in the fridge at temperatures between 4°C and 8°C and consumed within 48 hours.
10 Recipe Ideas Utilising Arborio Rice
1. Rice pudding
2. Spanish paella
3. Mushroom risotto
4. Risotto alla Milanese (saffron risotto)
5. Arancini (Italian fried Arborio rice balls)
6. Risi e Bisi (Italian rice and pea stew)
7. Minestrone with Arborio rice
8. Risotto al Salto (fried Arborio rice pancake)
9. Tomatoes filled with Arborio rice
10. Frittata di Riso (Arborio rice frittata)
What Can Be Substituted for Arborio Rice?
Arborio rice isn't the sole option for making risotto. Should it be unavailable at your local shop, or if you're looking to experiment, you could try:
Carnaroli: Often dubbed the "king of rice" or the "caviar of rice", Carnaroli is another Italian superfine rice rich in amylopectin. It is the largest of the Italian rice types and can be more expensive and challenging to find than Arborio.
Vialone Nano: A smaller-grained Italian rice, typically classified as fino or semifino, Vialone Nano has a high capacity to absorb moisture and triples in size when cooked.
Sushi Rice: This is a general term for different kinds of sticky, starchy, short-grain rice, usually from Japan or California.
Pearled Barley: With its high starch content, pearled barley is a good rice substitute for a creamy risotto.
Farro: Risotto made with farro is known as 'farrotto' and has a nutty flavour. You can use pearled farro for more starch or whole-grain farro for added nutritional benefits.
Israeli Couscous or Fregola: Though technically pasta rather than grains, Israeli couscous and fregola offer a delightfully chewy texture in risotto-style dishes.