Risotto. History, curiosities and our best recipes

The Italian risotto. Origin, history and curiosities of the universal Italian recipe.

The risotto is one of the most internationally known Italian dishes. Almost as much as pasta !

In fact, we could say that in the country of the boot, risotto is served as a first course , as an alternative to pasta or spoon dishes, although it is not surprising that it is also served as a single dish .

The word risotto comes from riso, which is rice in Italian . That is why risotto has traditionally been associated in northern Italy, with the Piemonte, Lombardia and Veneto regions, which are the rice-producing regions. But now it is extended to the entire country … and almost to the entire planet! 

The arrival of rice

There is no doubt about the origin of rice: it comes from the Far East, where it is still consumed today (in eastern Islamic India) instead of bread, and from where it is spread to the west.

Despite being one of the basic products of our gastronomy today, Europe was the last continent of the old world to know this cereal , in fairly recent times for the history of humanity, just over 500 years ago .

The rice was introduced, along with corn, in the list of “new foods” after the discovery of America to try to fight hunger. It soon became a major source of income in Italy, but it also suffered a bad reputation for the high mortality (from malaria) that occurred in farmland environments.

Until the researchers discovered the true cause of malaria (which was not rice, obviously, but the stagnation of water in rice paddies and the Anopheles mosquito) and rice was re-cultivated and even exported across Europe .

The origin of the risotto

The so-called “original rice” , from which all other varieties emerged, was born only in 1924 after dozens of grafts to make it resistant to brusona, a parasite that destroyed the country’s crops in the late 19th century.

From there the various teams are born , with great geographical confusion. Both the vialone and the carnaroli were born in the province of Pavia from the same peasant, Ettore De Vecchi, in the immediate post-war period. And then, in the 1940s, the arborio, the Roma, and the baldo were created

So the rice was cooked mainly in soup . In other words, they poured water and rice together and allowed it to cook by absorption. To avoid the plate being too thick or too mixed, it was necessary to know perfectly how much liquid to use from the beginning. Something extremely difficult because they had to calculate “by eye” the exact amount of water from the beginning. 

In the Mantua area there is still a recipe, “alla pilota” rice (rice, in fact, not “risotto”), that wants the cereal to be cooked like this, boiled in the correct dose of boiling water or in broth, with the Sauce (butter, salami pasta and lots of cheese) added later, apart.

In the mid-19th century, Lombardy spread the risotto throughout northern Italy , both in the poor variant (the Carthusian risotto, seasoned with what was invented by the monks of the Certosa di Pavia) and in the aristocratic one, where it became popular. the risotto alla milanese , characterized by using the saffron , a very expensive product I wanted to reproduce or simulate the use of gold as medieval food.

In a way, we could say that the risotto was born from culinary experimentation , from cooking with leftovers , from “throwing what you have” on rice cooked in broth (something that the least superstitious had done since the mid-1700s). 

The first recipe for Milanese risotto is written in the book “Giovanni Felice Luraschi’s“ New Milanese Economic Cook ”is from 1853. Essentially the same recipe as today: sauteed rice with onion in butter and chicken broth

But there are other historical references. The first is the “Viandier”, the best-selling French culinary of the Middle Ages, Guillaume Tirel, proposed the scrambled rice: “Cook the rice in hot milk, then cook it with fatty broth and saffron (…)”.

Later, in 1557, the chef from the East of Ferrara cooked rice with cheese, broth, saffron and egg yolk, but it was attributed Sicilian origin. Finally, Carlo Goldoni, a gourmet from the 18th century, names in a comedy a risotto cooked with poultry broth.

But, beyond visionary insights, the risotto spread from Milan in the early 20th century on a large scale with a recipe that had been known for some centuries. 

Risotto or risottos?

Throughout history there have been, and still are, many types of risotto.

In Lomellina, a land where rice is grown the most in Italy today, there is what is known as panissa: with beans, butter and low-fat salami . Then there is the rice or parmesan risotto, with nothing, cooked with broth and then flooded with parmesan cheese , the risotto ai frutti di mare , made with seafood, or the risotto quattro formaggi (with the four cheeses).

And Venetian-style rice , in which you put anything (from peas, chickpeas or beans – rice with peas – to liver!). Not to mention the raisin risotto .

Ingredients and secrets

Risotto is a very popular dish, easy and quick to prepare , and for which you don’t need many ingredients, but you do need a lot of imagination.

On the blog, without a doubt, risotto is one of the most visited recipes. That is why you have even how to make a perfect risotto , step by step, with all the luxury of details and the keys to make it look delicious.

What never varies in risotto, the base of this dish, is rice, Parmesan cheese, onion, garlic and meat stock. From there, you can enhance its flavor with butter and, as we said, with whatever you can think of and want: vegetables, mushrooms, meat, fish, seafood … 

The type of rice we use for our risotto is decisive. There are two varieties that are most suitable for this dish: arborio rice and carnaroli rice . At home we usually cook with Riso Scotti , totally trustworthy so that a delicious risotto comes out.

Remember that the risotto should be creamy, not broth . For this there are two perfect varieties of rice: arborio and carnaroli. Its type of grain has a high starch content, it is short and hard to absorb the liquid and holds up well to the stirring.

In summary. The key to a good risotto

Because the key is really there: The secret to achieving a creamy and perfect texture for our risotto is none other than a wooden spoon …. And your doll game! With it you must stir the rice a lot during its preparation.

Our best risotto recipes

If you put these tips into practice you will be able to conquer all the diners that you propose by the stomach. And if what you need are ideas, look no further! Choose from all the rice recipes that you will find on the blog.

You can prepare with simple ingredients this ” risotto with boletus edulis and prawns “, a delicious ” risotto a la Parmigiana “, the classic ” risotto with artichokes and lamb ” or the surprising  sea ​​and mountain risotto .

On our website we have recipes for making all kinds of risottos: from the classic saffron risotto , or Milanese risotto , the first and best-known recipe, or the delicious and seasonal mushroom risotto , perfect in this autumn season, to the innovative octopus risotto , to leave everyone speechless with a recipe that can be very Galician.

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