The humble arborio rice is short, white, and slightly oval, however once gently coaxed out of its firm outer shell, this rice delights all with its rich and creamy consistency. The arborio rice is named after a town in Italy, Arborio, in the Po Valley where it was originally grown.
The trait that arborio rice is most famous for is its creaminess, as well as its ability to remain chewy after cooking, which comes from a slight flaw in the grain’s genetics. As the rice grain comes to maturity, the core deforms which causes the centre to remain firmer than the outer shell when cooked. Thanks Mother Nature!
Arborio rice undergoes less milling than ordinary long grain rice and, therefore, retains more of its natural starch content. If you haven’t cooked with arborio rice before, note that the liquid to rice ratio is more in the range of 6:1 versus about 1.25:1 for long grain rice. Arborio rice also likes a lot of attention. While long grain rice is happy to cook on its own, arborio rice enjoys being gently stirred while you slowly add liquid a cup at a time.
Here we will use the risotto technique, and sweeten it up a bit. Arborio rice makes fantastic rice pudding and as an added benefit; it’s gluten free and very easy to make. Rice pudding can also be made ahead of time, you get to control the sweetness and flavour, and it can be frozen; so no excuses. Enjoy!
chai rice pudding, photo by Natalie Findlay