The challenge: Compare four different varieties of Italian risotto rice.
1) In order to compare the varieties, I would have to prepare them.
2) Risotto preparation is kind of time consuming.
3) After our trip to NYC, the deadline to finish the review was coming up quickly. I wasn’t sure there was enough time left to actually complete the task.
What to do?
Have a risotto party!
At first, I was hesitant to pitch the idea to some of my friends….I wanted to invite them over to eat but felt a bit guilty for giving them an assignment as part of their dinner.
However, they are all love food and any chance to get together and drink wine. Luckily, they agreed to the challenge.
The week prior was spent delivering risotto samples, researching recipes, and buying wine.
Thursday night, (a school night!) they all came over and we had a risotto feast. (Including a really delicious olive oil cake–recipe coming soon.)
It was so fun to see what each of them came up with and all of the risottos were very different.
Risotto #1: The purple blob.
Rice: Marx Foods Italian Carnaroli rice
Recipe: Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe for Spring Green Risotto
This risotto was not pretty. Actually, it was a very pretty color—it just looked like a gelatinous blob. In case you are wondering, the purple came from the addition of red wine instead of white. According to Marx Foods website, this rice tends to hold its shape better than arborio rice and offers better liquid absorption. Supposedly, this rice will yield a creamier risotto than other varieties. And, this one was very creamy.
Comments: “If I didn’t know you, I wouldn’t eat this.”
“Why is it purple?”
“What is that flavor?”
Risotto #2: The healthy risotto.
Rice: Marx Foods Organic Italian Arborio
Recipe: Chef’s creation with lots of spinach and a ton of garlic.
Comments: “Maybe it needs more salt.”
“Wow, very garlic-y!”
This is the type of rice that is normally used for risotto and just as suspected, the results were a creamy rice porridge.
Risotto #3: The professional risotto.
Rice: Marx Foods Vialone Nano Rice
Recipe: Chef’s creation including asparagus, leek, sundried tomato and goat cheese.
For risotto #3, the chefs followed the basic recipes for preparing a risotto complete with toasting the rice and slowly adding the broth. They completed the dish by adding asparagus, leek, sundried tomato and goat cheese. This risotto was dryer than the others and the rice grains were separate.
Comments: “This looks like what a risotto is supposed to look like.”
“This is the most professional looking of the risottos”
According to the Marx Foods website, this variety of rice and the Carnaroli are thought to make better risotto than the traditional arborio. Vialone Nano rice absorbs liquid more quickly which is likely why this risotto was a bit dryer than the others.
Risotto #4: The meat risotto.
Rice: Marx Food’s Italian Integrale rice
Recipe: Smitten Kitchen’s Tomato and Sausage Risotto
Comments: “This could be a meal on its own.”
“The rice is slightly hard”
The Integrale rice is a whole grain Italian brown rice. Following the traditional recipes for risotto resulted in a rice that was slightly undercooked. Other recipes using this variety may need to use more liquid.
Our original intention was to compare the different risotto rice and determine if one variety was better than another. However, that was difficult to do given that each chef chose a different recipe and have different levels of culinary skills.
Did risotto #1 turn gelatinous because it was prepared the day before and re-heated? Or was it the starchiness of the rice?
Did risotto #4 taste slightly undercooked because it was a wheat grain or because of the novice cooking skills of the chef?
Did risotto #3 have nicely separated grains due to the type of risotto or because the chefs toasted the rice?
Risotto #2 looked like a typical risotto—like soupy rice—was that due to the preparation or the fact that the chef received the typical arborio rice?
If we had all prepared the same recipe, we may have been able to do a better comparison of the various rice types—but it would have been so much less fun. However, the rice did behave as described on the Marx Foods website.
Since we weren’t really able to judge the different rice types –we just decided which risottos we enjoyed the taste of the most.
And the winner was………..
The purple blob.
Are you surprised? I was–I have to admit I was a little bit afraid to try it but it had such a great flavor–likely due to the large amount of lemon zest and the marscapone cheese.
The runner up was:
The professional risotto. It had great flavors, looked pretty and contained goat cheese. How can you go wrong with goat cheese?
The healthy risotto and the meat risotto received honorable mention.
Interestingly, the two winners used the type of rice that Marx Foods describes as Italian’s choice for the best risotto.
Great job contestants!
Thanks to Marx Foods for supplying us with risotto samples and to everyone for agreeing to make risotto. Special thanks to the kids (all 7 of them!) for not killing each other while we ignored them.