Firm yet creamy, arborio rice is no ordinary rice. Here’s what else to use it for when you’ve had enough of risotto.
Arborio rice, an Italian short-grain rice named after the town of Arborio in the Po Valley where it is grown, is the traditional type of rice for preparing risotto.
The creamy dish is one of the ultimate comfort foods and a recipe made on repeat by family cooks who love the art and craft of Italian cooking. But this rice, whose round grains remain firm when cooked, can also be used for other recipes!
All About Arborio Rice
Arborio rice is named after the commune of Arborio, population 895, in the area in which it was first grown. Arborio is located along the Po Valley in the Northwest Italy’ mountainous Piedmont region.
This short-grain rice has a slightly oval shape and is pearly white in color. It has a mild taste that doesn’t overpower and a firm, chewy texture, which it retains even when it is cooked. There are different sizes of arborio rice, but the most common is super fino for “super fine.”
When arborio rice is cooked, it releases an abundance of starch. Called amylopectin, this starch is what makes arborio rice ideal for making risotto, as it thickens the cooking water and gives it creaminess.
If you want to make risotto that isn’t so starchy, the trick is to rinse the arborio rice for a couple of minutes under cold running water; the surface starches will wash down the drain.
And, when you’ve had enough risotto but have plenty of leftover rice, try some of these other recipes that work formidably well.
Dishes to Make With Arborio Rice
These delicious rice balls are the perfect choice when you have leftover risotto to use up. A Sicilian street food originally created to provide Frederick II, King of Sicily (1198-1250) with a hearty meal during his hunting trips, arancini make great appetizers or snacks!
The classic version of arancini features a filling made from ground beef, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Green peas are often added as well. The filling is stuffed inside a rice ball which is then breaded and deep-fried.
The name arancini comes from the Sicilian word for orange since the finished product resembles both the shape and color of the fruit. While arancini are most frequently round, they can also be cone-shaped.
To make these tasty morsels, you’ll want your leftover risotto to be cooled. Take about 1/4 cup of the risotto and flatten it out into a patty. Place a tablespoon or two of your filling on top, then fold up the sides of the patty to form a ball.
Next, dredge the balls in flour, then dip in beaten egg, letting the excess drip off. Roll in breadcrumbs or panko. You can either deep-fry arancini for a more traditional flavor or bake them in the oven for a healthier version.
When your arancini are ready, serve them with a bowl of extra tomato-meat sauce for dipping!
Another great option for using arborio rice is to cook paella. This rice dish originated in Valencia, Spain. The name paella comes from the Valencian word paella for “frying pan” since this dish was traditionally cooked in a pan over a fire. Though often made with bomba rice, arborio is a reasonable substitute.
The traditional version of paella was made with rabbit, green beans, and butter beans. If rabbit wasn’t available, sometimes duck, chicken, or snails were used. Saffron, the lavish and expensive spice dubbed “red gold,” gives the dish its distinct yellow color.
Today, there are several variations of paella as different cultures put their own spin on the dish. Different types of meat or seafood are used with a variety of vegetables and seasonings, most commonly poultry and seafood.
A hearty breakfast dish, porridge is often made with oats but you can also use rice! The starchiness of arborio rice makes the porridge nice and creamy. Rice porridge is traditionally served at Christmas in some Scandinavian countries.
While you can cook your rice in water, using a mixture of milk and water makes it extra creamy and filling. Any type of milk can be used including dairy milk, coconut milk, nut milk, or soy milk.
Porridge is a versatile dish as you can switch up the flavors daily! Try adding some cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom to the rice as it is cooking. A dash of vanilla extract is another great choice.
Add freshness to your porridge with fruits like berries or sliced bananas. Dates are a great option and they add a lot of sweetness. If you want some crunch, throw in some chopped walnuts or pecans.
Soup is a wonderful way to use up all sorts of leftovers or bits and pieces from your fridge. Vegetables, beans, meats—and yes, rice—are all great additions to the soup pot. You can use already cooked arborio rice for your soup or start with dried rice.
Arborio rice works particularly well with the Italian soup minestrone. This soup usually includes some type of pasta or rice along with beans, tomatoes, and vegetables like carrots, onion, and cabbage. The starch in the arborio rice will help to thicken the soup.
An excellent dessert choice, rice pudding can be served hot or cold. The starchiness of arborio rice makes it a great option for this creamy dish.
Rice pudding is simple to make and you can use leftover rice if you have it.
The cooked rice is put in a pot with milk and sugar, then heated until thick and creamy. A beaten egg is often stirred into the rice in the last few minutes of cooking along with more milk to obtain the right consistency.
Raisins can be added to your pudding, along with butter or a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.
How Do I Store Arborio Rice?
Arborio rice should be stored in a cool, dry place like your cupboard or pantry. If you keep the rice in a sealed, airtight container, it will last for years. Avoid storing rice in plastic bags as these are susceptible to critters and rodents. Glass mason jars or sturdy plastic containers are best.
Why Is Arborio Rice So Expensive?
Arborio rice can be twice the price of regular rice at the store. The Oryza sativa japonica plant, which produces risotto rice, has a lower yield compared to other rice varieties. The rice itself is also more delicate and tender, and therefore requires more attention during production.
Where Can I Buy Arborio Rice?
Many larger grocery stores carry arborio rice and it can be found in the aisle with other types of rice. Italian specialty grocers will almost certainly carry arborio rice. It can also be purchased from various online retailers.