Quick Guide to choose your Italian Rice
Pasta is a symbol of Mediterranean cuisine. It is practical, fast and easy to cook, it can be seasoned easily, turning anyone into a chef. Despite all these peculiarities, nowadays rice is widely preferred and used in international gastronomy and in Italy which, thanks to the quality of the crops, is the best producer of rice for risotto.
However, rice does undergo a number of processes in order to be edible. So it is important to check:
– the characteristics of the cultivated varieties;
– the presence of defects on the grain;
– the state of preservation and authenticity.
This cereal can be used to prepare a lot of dishes: appetizers, first courses, soups, salads, desserts … but before you start cooking, you need to learn how to choose the right rice to use for each recipe.
Many rice types grow in Italy, but they are classified into four groups: rices with common origin, semifine, fine, superfine.
This division is made by observing the different characteristics of the grain such as length, width, thickness, shape, weight and consistency. All these aspects determine the behaviour in cooking and in the culinary performance of each type and variety. The rice variety must always be indicated on the packaging, but further information about the type is optional.
In case of doubt, the consistency (hardness) of the grain can also be assessed through direct observation, but you need to have a bit of experience. Rice also has a small spot in the white area of the grain: the greater the spot, the more tender the rice (suitable for broths and soups); conversely, a smaller one means rice is harder (and therefore suitable for salads and being baked).
Varieties and trade names
Here are the many main varieties:
The native one: common rice, round and small.
- Po Rice: produced and consumed mainly in Northern Italy, it is semifino and characterised by its stickiness.
- Vialone nano Rice: semifino,one of the finest rices, small and round grains, low in starch and good performance in cooking.
- Ribe: stickiness is average.
- Sant’Andrea Rice: the grains are very sticky and have a compact structure.
- Roma and Baldo Rices: the grain is large and rounded, and is highly sticky.
- Maratelli Rice: very high-quality rice, not too sticky. The grains are average in size and slightly rounded; when cooked it remains compact. It’s ideal for vegans because it is grown only in the absence of chemical agents.
- Carnaroli Rice: superfine medium stickiness. The grains are very large and absorb the seasonings perfectly.
- Arborio Rice: This is a cultivar of the Japonica group, superfine, with a large pearly coloured grain, which tends to significantly increase in size during cooking by absorbing water.
- Basmati and Patna: grown in India, Pakistan, it has long and thin grains.
- Thai Rice or Jasmine Rice: An aromatic rice with long grains of Thai origin.
- Japonica Rice: Short-grain white rice, often used for sushi.
- Red Rice: Red variety of Japonica rice, high content of digestible iron and anthocyanins present in the outer skins.