Real risotto is about two things — the rice and the stirring. Without the right rice and some elbow grease, one should just be realistic and make pilaf!
I’m a longtime fan of risotto, with memories of holding my infant daughter in one arm while obsessively stirring a risotto with the other. When she was less than a year old, I whispered to her about the key elements of a great risotto. When she’s living in some college dorm, do you think she’ll become the “go-to” chef for late night munchies and cook her mother’s mushroom risotto recipe for her friends?
In the U.S., we typically use Arborio rice for risotto, and the result is quite satisfying. However, on my previous trip to Italy, I learned that the Italians wouldn’t think of using Arborio — they use Carnoroli rice. So, I bought some and made a risotto in our Venice apartment last summer. And we loved it. I carried the remainder of the package home and recently used the last of it.
When we arrived at our Lucca apartment in Tuscany last week, the cabinet contained another unopened package of Carnoroli, which I happily used to make two risottos during our visit. The first was (of course!) a mushroom risotto. The second was a sundried tomato risotto with onions and white wine, where the rice served as the backdrop for delicious sundried tomatoes I picked up in the weekly market in Pistoia.
I buy very few souvenirs on our trips, as my focus is really on the experiences rather than on the things (ok…..I did come home with a couple new Italian leather handbags this time!). But, my most gratifying “souvenir” is my new bag of Carnaroli rice!