ROOTS & TRADITIONS
Rice was first brought to Italy by the Moors and Sarancens in Sicily around the 13th century. At first, Romans used rice for medicinal purposes. When populations in cities and demand for food increased, rice made its way to Piedmont, in northern Italy, where it was humid, the land was flat, and there was an abundance of water — making it ideal for growing rice.
The earliest Italian recipes with rice were sweet. It wasn’t until the 15th century, Maestro Martino published the Libro de Arte Coquinaria or “the art of cooking” which included one recipe with rice boiled in meat broth and mixed with eggs. In 1839, new species of rice were brought to Italy by a missionary named Padre Calleri. Hybrids were developed and short grain Carnaroli and Arborio rice were born.
Today, risotto is famous for its versatility, served with a variety of ingredients. Risotto alla Milanese is by far the most popular, made with saffron. Folk legend states that on the wedding of Valerio of Flanders, saffron was added to the rice dish as a joke, but the party loved the dish, and it became a staple. “In 1929, the Milanese chef Felice Luraschi finally gave the dish its name, ‘risotto alla Milanese giallo’; his recipe calls for rice, fat, beef marrow, saffron, nutmeg and stock, flavored at the end with grated cheese.” Even now, the dish is made with the same components: rice, stock, onions, butter, wine, parmesan, and saffron.
Risotto is known for its rich and creamy texture, which comes from gradual addition of broth, water or wine. Short-grain, semi-rounded rice is perfect for slow cooking and allows the rice to absorb the flavor of the liquid and release starch along the way. When the rice has completely absorbed the liquid and taken on a creamy consistency, it’s ready.
While risotto requires only a few ingredients, there are a few steps tips that can’t be passed up:
- Don’t wash the rice: the natural starch helps absorb the broth and leads to creamy consistency.
- Add hot broth: make sure your liquid is hot when you add to the rice, or the cooking process will be disrupted.
- Give your attention: stir the rice frequently and add liquid one cup at a time, allowing the prior batch of liquid to be fully absorbed before adding more.
Rice is naturally gluten free and anti-inflammatory. It has a variety of B vitamins, which produce neurotransmitters and strengthen the nervous system. Rice is a high source of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that act as fuel and increase energy levels. It is also high in fiber, which regulates bodily functions and reduces the risk of cancer.
Prep Time: 5–10 min
Cook Time: 30–45 min
2 c short grain rice, use Vialone Nano or Vialone Baldo or Carnaroli rice for optimal taste
1 yellow onion, diced
3 T olive oil
5 c broth, chicken or your desired flavor
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic
2 T butter, use bone marrow for deep rich flavor, or ghee for dairy free option
1/2 c parmesan cheese, grated, or Pecorino Romano for reduced dairy/sheep’s milk substitute
1/2 c dry white wine, or more broth
ADD-ON’S FOR HUNGRY CROWD
Condiments: lemon jam, tomato confit, olives, squid ink
Herbs: nettle, sage, truffles
Fish & seafood: scallops, lobster, snails
Meat: sausage, foie gras, veal, duck
Mushrooms, asparagus, peas, squash, red peppers, pumpkin
1. Add broth (and wine, if using) to a medium sized pot and bring to a gentle simmer.
2. Bring a large stockpot to medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil, then the onion and a pinch of salt. Stir the onion (and garlic, if using) until translucent. Add the rice and cook for 3–4 minutes or until translucent.
3. Add the heated broth to the rice mixture in ½ cup intervals, stirring consistently. Do not add more broth until the liquid is absorbed by rice. Continue until al dente (tender on the outside, firm on the inside). Remove from heat and enjoy; (or stir in the parmesan and butter, then top with add-ons, if using).
I’m Callie, and I’m the Founder & CEO of Nonna Eats, a Boulder (CO) startup dedicated to fostering community through food. I have experience running a variety of culinary teams, as well as web design and branding.
About this publication
This is a series of stories about reclaiming the art of eating and gathering. Through working with the highest quality chefs and producers, we know how to eat well. If you’d like to read more, please follow. Originally posted on nonnaeats.com.