Rice Speaks Italian

Rice Speaks Italian

Aug 10, 2020Donatella Mulvoni

Italy produces more rice than any other country in Europe. Even though the rice’s origins are far away, we created some of the most famous dishes, like risotto and arancino, the rice ball.



We know, a lot of people believe that Italians eat only pizza and pasta all day, every day. And for some of us, it’s true! But from north to south, it’s impossible to think about Italian culinary tradition without the mention of “risotto.” In fact, we created many more recipes that have rice as a main ingredient. If risotto makes you think about North Italy, then you may be surprised to learn that “arancino,” the famous rice ball, find its roots in the South, in Sicily. And in the summer, “insalata di riso,” a rice salad made with Mediterranean ingredients, is a must for any Italian!



Rice came to Europe by way of Asia. When it arrived in Italy, Romans used it more as a spice and for medical purposes. According to many food historians, the cultivation started during the 15th Century, after long periods of epidemics that left the country with many people dead and a shortage of food. The cultivation of rice, thanks to its high productivity, was the answer.  Today, Italy produces more rice than any other country in Europe, with 1.6 million tons.



Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto are the regions are the most concentrated areas for the production of rice paddies. Italy is famous all around the world for three main varieties: Carnaroli, Arborio and Vialone Nano. We can find them as a white rice, brown and parboiled. Carnaroli is very good for the ¨risotto, ¨ because the grains stay separated; Arborio, which has short grain rice, can also be used for risotto, but with this variety there is an increased chance to overcook the rice if you don´t pay close attention. It has a creamy texture and is now even cultivated in the United States. Vialone Nano is a unique variety of semifino rice produced only in the province of Verona. Compared to Carnaroli, grains are shorter, but a bit larger and can absorb more liquid. The result is a very creamy risotto!



Talking about risotto, of course the Oscar goes… to “Risotto alla Milanese,”which is the most common in Italy. According to legend, the yellow rice was created by glassmakers who were working in Milan. Saffron was indeed an ingredient they used to color glass. One day, during a wedding, one of them added it to a white rice dish. It was the first attempt at this combination and it was instant magic! Today we have many more kinds of risottos. Other popular variations in Italy include risotto with tomato sauce, with fish, or mushroom. In the fall, for example, risotto with pumpkin is a seasonal favorite! If after reading this article, you are dreaming about a risotto, we recommend you to choose Tenuta Margherita to simply have the best, most unparalleled Italian rice ever!

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