The chef's blog
The Art, and a bit of science, behind the perfect risotto
In the previous article we’ve been talking about rice and the components that makes a variety better than another to make risotto, let’s go into the details about varieties.
Today is trendy to use Carnaroli, a variety born in 1945 thanks to the recipe farmer Angelo De Vecchi, un crossbred Vialone and Lencino to obtain a rice with a higher content in starch. Compare to Arborio, for instance, the grain is longer and keeps better cooking thanks to a higher content in amylose.
Must say, however, that the chances you get actual Carnaroli into the package you just bought are little… An all Italian anomaly regroups by law, different rice varieties into a unique product category, based not on their organoleptic characteristics, but solely on their product group. In few words, the law no. 235 of March 18th, 1958, joins in the same product group, other rices such as Karnak, Keope, Carnise or Poseidone, allowing the producers to market them under the name “Carnaroli”.
The problem is, that even if they have common characteristics such as color, form or dimension, the percentages of starch, its components and the crystalline form in which they’re present may varies to a great extent.
Generally speaking, in a pack of Carnaroli, you most likely find Karnak, which is 20% more productive and therefore less expensive; even if it’s still quite good to make risotto, can’t be as good as a Carnaroli, as the latter has been engineered for the purpose. Even more, as you don’t know what’s inside the box, as the distributor is not obliged to write it, there’s a high risk to mix two very different rices from different boxes, with obvious consequences.
The only two rices that by the law, make their own categories are Vialone Nano and Sant’Andrea.
For risotto making, what it counts is the amylose content and the form in which is present. The gras success of Carnaroli, is due to its high content in amylose and therefore its exceptional strength, in few words it doesn’t overcook easily.
Vialone Nano, of which you can be sure what’s in the box, is also very strong and perfect to make risotto.
Sant’Andrea, instead, overcooks easier and releases starch. Even if some chef finds it excellent, even better than Carnaroli itself, the peculiar organoleptic characteristics of this rice, better suit ion my opinion, soups and timbales. The latter, particularly, benefit from this feature i terms of keeping the shape.
Arborio, Roma and other less know varieties such as Balilla or Volano, have lower amylose content and therefore I wouldn’t recommend for risotto…
Selected our rice, we now start to prepare our perfect risotto.
On the techniques to be used, there is no unanimous consensus, there are different traditions, personal taste and even some metropolitan legend.
In general, the technique involves 6 steps:
Next article, we’ll talk about Soffritto.
Next chapter, April 12th, 2017
Executive Chef with over thirty years of field experience, passionate in the culinary world at 360º