italian risotto

The Italian Risotto. Let’s see where to eat the best in Rome!

The Italian Risotto: a dish originally from northern Italy but now representative of the whole country. Let’s see together where to eat the best risottos in Rome (in our opinion), and discover the story behind the dish.

Before Risotto: the origins of rice in Italy

We can say with certainty that the origins of rice are from China. Then, it spread to Mesopotamia, Egypt and reached the Arabs. In ancient Rome, romans considered it a medicine and used it as a decoction for dysentery and intoxications. However, how rice entered Italy is still uncertain. Although it is one of the typical dishes of northern Italy, it was probably the Arabs who first introduced it to Sicily. Another theory states that it was the Aragonese family who introduced it to Naples. The last option says that it was Venetian merchants who brought it from the East. What we are certain of is that it was the 1300s. Even if rice was very popular during the Black Death and the following population growth, around 1500, the cultivation in southern Italy was slowly abandoned. However, production increased in the north, particularly in Lombardy and Piedmont.

rice fields

The Italian rice fields are mainly found in Piedmont and Lombardy regions.

The most suitable rice for Risotto

In 1468 Italy inaugurated the first rice field, but the boom in the production and consumption of rice in Italy began in 1800. In fact, Italy became the leading European producer. From 1900 onwards, the different varieties, that we still know today, emerged. Of all of them, let’s see which are the most suitable for a perfect Italian risotto.

Carnaroli: known as the finest rice variety of all, born in 1945. One of the largest grains among those grown in Italy, which allows it to absorb seasonings perfectly. Furthermore, it cooks better thanks to the high percentage of amylose (the sugar that is in the rice starch). For this reason it is one of the most suitable for Risotto, because it is creamy but the grains remain separate and with a good consistency and al dente.

Arborio: born in 1946, in Piedmont region. This variety is also characterized by the size of the grain, which allows it to remain consistent and al dente even after cooking. Perfect for Risotto because it absorbs seasonings well without overcooking.

Vialone Nano: born in 1937, and cultivated mainly in the province of Verona. It is among the most valuable varieties of rice. The grain is particular, because it is small and rounded and absorbs the seasoning in an incredible way. This is why the risotto prepared with this variety is particularly creamy.

carnaroli rice

Carnaroli rice is the King of the Risotto.

The traditional Risotto

The Italian Risotto recipe is quite recent, although rice has been known in Italy for thousands of years. It was present in the kitchen of the poorest, seasoned with what was available. While the aristocrats, they used to season it with saffron, because the color resembled gold. Until the end of the 18th century, the only cooking technique used for rice was to boil it. Later, the first risottos cooked with butter and blended with wine appeared. In those times the use of fat in the kitchens was fundamental. Butter or lard. For this reason was important to blend the Risotto with wine, to degrease the Risotto on the palate.

risotto alla milanese

In the past the aristocracy used saffron in rice because it resembled the color of gold.

The 7 rules for a perfect Risotto

The recipe for traditional Italian Risotto consists in toasted rice, not boiled, blended with wine, cooked in broth and finally creamed with butter. But what are the precautions to take for a perfect Risotto?

– Use a fairly large saucepan, with low edges and possibly made of copper for perfect heat diffusion.

– Cook over moderate heat to avoid the risk of it sticking to the bottom.

– Mix with a wooden spoon so as not to break or damage the grains.

– The broth can be either meat, fish or vegetable, it depends on the recipe you want to follow.

– The dose of rice is approximately 80-100 grams per person.

– Usually the rice is toasted by sautéing onion and butter (or extra virgin olive oil).

– Stir in butter or parmesan but always away from the heat.

A Risotto for every taste

The Risotto recipe has always sparked discussions. Every Italian house has its own recipe. But what are the most popular risottos in Italy? The most famous is the Risotto alla Milanese, with butter and saffron, onion and, if desired, beef bone marrow. In the Mantua area, however, we find pumpkin Risotto. The prized Mantua pumpkin is first cooked in the oven and then used for cooking risotto. We can also add some Montasio Dop cheese. Risi e bisi, that is, Risotto with peas, is typical of Venice. Another characteristic one is the Risotto seasoned with Amarone wine and Treviso radicchio, with a pleasantly bitter flavour. In Piedmont, white truffle Risotto is one of the typical dishes, while in central Italy it is black truffle Risotto. Further south, in Bari the potato and mussel Risotto is one of the most famous. In Sicily, however, we have Risotto with tomato and mozzarella.

risi e bisi

Risi e Bisi is the typical Venetian Risotto.

The best risottos in Rome

Of course, Rome is definitely not the city of Risotto, but there are restaurants where you can enjoy truly delicious Risottos! Let’s see together which are the best places (in our opinion) to enjoy Risotto.

Taverna Cestia (Viale della Piramide Cestia, 71): one of the best scampi cream risottos (Norway lobster) in the capital. Finally, a Risotto with fresh scampi!

Risotteria Melotti (Via della Vetrina, 12): the word says it, Risotteria. It means risottos of all kinds, cooked to perfection and simply delicious.

Da Michele (Via Tiberio Imperatore, 93): just outside the city centre, this restaurant offers a truly mouth-watering Risotto alla Pescatora, the seafood Risotto.

Chiaroscuro (Via Rimini, 15): again a truly amazing scampi cream Risotto.

scampi cream risotto

In Rome is possible to taste some of the best Scampi cream Risotto.

Even if tradition divides Italy between the north for Risotto and the south for Pasta, in Rome we can still enjoy excellent Risotto!