With more than 40,000 varieties of rice that are cultivated around the world, Arborio rice just happens to be one that is super special.
This short-grain rice is grown in Italy and hails from a town of the same name. Arborio is situated in the Piedmont region of Italy which is in the northwestern part of the country. Nowadays, however, this type of rice is also grown in the US in Arkansas, California, and Missouri.
It is called a “superfino rice” and the largest of the Italian short-grain Italian varieties. These grains are oval in shape and about ¼” of an inch long on average. Most often the rice is white in color but the unrefined, brown version is also sold.
What makes arborio rice so special? Something called amylopectin. This is a starch that is present in the rice. When cooked and agitated, this starch releases into the liquid that you are cooking the rice in.
Because of the starchy nature of Arborio rice, it makes it ideal for using in things like risotto. However, it isn’t just relegated to that single dish. It is also wonderful in things that need a creamy texture like pudding, porridge, and other starchy desserts like rice pudding.
What can I use instead of Arborio rice?
If you are fresh out of this variety or can’t find it at the store, fear not! There are a few other choices you can use that will give you a similar texture. Carnaroli is another Italian variety with the same high levels of starch. Vialone Nano, another Italian variety, works wonderfully. Sushi rice works well as does pearled barley. Lots of options to choose from.
Do you wash Arborio rice before cooking risotto?
If you are making something that is meant to be creamy and rich, for example, risotto, you would not want to rinse the rice. Rinsing it would rid it of all the starch which gives you that amazing creamy texture.
Should you want to use the Arborio for a more traditional rice dish that didn’t need that velvety texture, you could rinse it in cold water until the water coming off runs clear and cook it like you would other short-grain varieties.