Rice in Italy: the many varieties of a nutrient which is not only versatile but also healthy

Rice is a big part of Italian culinary tradition: the number of different recipes from the north to the south of the peninsula is proof of its versatility and richness.

Risotto, arancine, supplì, rice salad… these are only some of the ways in which Italians like to enjoy rice. Rice is part of many traditional Italian recipes and its production has a long history. There are in Italy at least 120 different types of rice, all under the japonica variety, but only 12 are actually cultivated. The region of Veneto, the river Po Valley, Piedmont, and Lombardy are especially prolific zones for the production of rice. There are many different categories of rice, starting from the distinction between “brillato” rice (which is more refined) and whole wheat rice.



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Italian rice: the four main categories

There are 4 different types of Italian rice, according to the shape and dimension of the grains, as well as the cooking methods. The first one is called “comune” or “originario”: its grains are small and rounded; it takes 12 or 13 minutes to cook and it is suitable for the preparation of cakes and soups. The second type is called “semi fino”: the grains here are longer, and the cooking time is also a little longer (13-15 minutes); usually people prepare supplì, salads and timbales with this rice. Then we have “fino”, with longer grains and longer cooking times (14-16 minutes) which is very good for risotto. The last one is known as “super fino”, whose grains are even longer; its cooking time is of around 16-18 minutes and it is also very suitable for the preparation of risotto.


Little rice experiments: the treated varieties

Rice varieties which are worth mentioning are the refined ones: their grains have undergone a special treatment to reach a particular grade. One example is parboiled, which is partly previously boiled in order to keep the nutrient inside the grains; another one is the “enriched”, with added vitamins; one last worth mentioning is the “fast cooking”: the grains are treated in order to create some holes on their surface, so that boiling water would enter the grain and make it cook faster.

Moving forward: joining rice traditions

All the above-mentioned rice varieties are originated and produced in Italy, since rice is a big part of the traditional cuisine, mostly in the northern regions. Today however, foreign varieties – such as Basmati and Venere rice (a black version born from the mix of an Italian rice and an asian rice) – are being included in Italian dishes: it’s clear that Italian cuisine is moving forward and trying to join tradition with new influences. The wide range of rice types and the different dishes which can consequentially be produced highlight the versatility of this product. Not only is rice so versatile that you will always be able to find a recipe to suite every palate, but it’s also a very healthy ingredient, suitable even for a gluten-free diet.



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