Rice was first brought to Italy from the Middle East. It grows particularly well in northern Italy, especially in the regions of Piedmont and Emilia- Romagna.
Italian cooks are very specific about the type of medium-grain rice they prefer, though the differences between varieties can be subtle. Many cooks will specify one variety for a seafood risotto and another for a risotto made with vegetables. Often, the preferences are regional or simply traditional, though each variety has specific properties. Carnaroli rice holds its shape well and makes a risotto that is slightly more creamy. Vialone Nano cooks faster and has a milder flavor. Arborio is the best known and is widely available, but the flavor is less subtle. It is best for risotto made with strong flavoring ingredients. Any of these three varieties can be used for the risotto recipes in this book.
Corn is a relatively new grain in Italy. It was not until after European exploration of the New World that corn found its way to Spain and spread from there throughout the continent. Corn is easy and inexpensive to grow, so it quickly became widely planted. Most of it is grown for animal feed, but cornmeal, both white and yellow, is typically used for polenta. It is rare to find corn on the cob eaten in Italy, except in Naples, where vendors sometimes sell grilled corn as street food. Romans do sometimes add corn niblets from a can to tossed salads, but it is something of an exotic oddity.
Farro and similar wheatlike grains are most common in central and southern Italy where they are grown. An ancient variety of wheat, farro is regarded as a health food by Italians. It is excellent in soups, salads, and other preparations.
Barley is an ancient grain that grows well in the colder regions of the north. The Romans fed barley and other grains to their armies. It was cooked into a porridge or soup known as puls, probably the forerunner of polenta. Today you find barley mostly in the northeast of Italy, near Austria, cooked like risotto or added to soup.
Couscous, made from hard wheat flour rolled into tiny pellets, is typical in western Sicily and is a vestige of the Arab domination of the region centuries ago. It is usually cooked with a soupy seafood or meat stew.
Saffron Risotto, Milan Style
Risotto with Red Pepper
Tomato and Arugula Risotto
Risotto with Red Wine and Radicchio
Risotto with Creamy Cauliflower
Golden Squash Risotto
Venetian Risotto with Peas
Risotto with Tomatoes and Fontina
Shrimp and Celery Risotto
Risotto with "Fruits of the Sea"
Sea and Mountain Risotto
Crisp Risotto Pancake
Stuffed Rice Timbale
Rice and Beans, Veneto Style
Sardinian Sausage Rice
Polenta with Cream
Polenta with Ragù
Polenta Crostini, Three Ways
Polenta with Three Cheeses
Polenta with Gorgonzola and Mascarpone
Buckwheat and Cornmeal Polenta
Baked Polenta with Cheese
Baked Polenta with Sausage Ragù
Polenta "in Chains"
FARRO AND BARLEY
Farro, Amatrice Style
Farro, Tomatoes, and Cheese
Shrimp and Barley Orzotto
Barley and Vegetable Orzotto
From "1,000 Italian Recipes." Copyright 2004 by Michele Scicolone. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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