If you’ve hung out around this blog for a while, you know that risotto is a staple in our house. You might even says it’s my thing. In fact, when I was asked to bring a gift that represented my blog to the Foodbuzz Festival I brought a risotto kit.
So when Marx Foods was looking for people to test and review four different kinds of risotto rice, I jumped on the opportunity. I almost always use arborio rice, both because its easy to find and affordable and because its what I know, but I was super excited to try out the rice that Marx Foods sent me: Vialone Nano, Organic Arborio, Organic Integrale (a brown rice), and Organic Carnaroli. Shawn and I did a blind tasting and ended up ranking the rice the exact same way as each other — and the results surprised us!
First, the ground rules: In order to keep the results as unbiased as possible, I identified each rice only by the pan that I cooked it in; I didn’t know which was which until the end. I prepared them all at the same time (quite the task!) using a simple recipe that would let the flavor of the rice itself shine through — just the rice, some onion, white wine, and chicken stock. I kept detailed notes as I cooked and tasted and rated each rice on appearance, creaminess, smell, and taste. When Shawn came home from work, he tasted each and ranked his favorites (again, he didn’t know which was which. He also didn’t know that I used the same recipe for each version of the risotto.)
…On Cooking: I was surprised by how quickly pan #3 (the Integrale brown rice) absorbed the initial stock that I added. It was the first pan to need additional stock added; however after that it was a while before I needed to make a third addition. On the other end, the rice in pan #4 (Vialone Nano) absorbed the liquid very slowly and was the last to need more added. Pan #1 (Arborio) actually took it’s third addition of stock at the same time that the Vialone Nano needed its second! In terms of total absorption, the arborio needed the most liquid added before it was fully cooked. It also plumped up the most and yielded the most volume of all the varieties.
The rice all took about the same time to cook, with the exception of the Integrale which needed about 10 minutes longer. One thing to note about the Integrale is that it wasn’t very creamy until the last 5 minutes of cooking — at that time it transformed from a soupy mess into a creamy mass almost instantly! A little patience definitely paid off.
…On Appearance: Pan #1 (Arborio) was white and creamy. It looked like I expect risotto to look, which made sense considering it’s the rice I always use. Pan #2 (Carnaroli) was also very white, but was drier and had slightly less volume. Pan #3 (Integrale) was light brown and creamy, and had the least volume. Pan #4 (Vialone Nano) was beige, had a slightly drier appearance than Pan #1, and had a nice amount of volume. In terms of creaminess, I ranked the risottos as follows: Arborio, Integrale, Vialone Nano, Carnaroli.
…On Smell: I don’t really know why I tested this one, but I did. The Arborio smelled very delicate and floral. The Integrale smelled earthy like mushrooms. I didn’t notice any discernible scent on the other two.
…On Taste: The most important category! Pan #1 (Arborio) resulted in a creamy, chewy risotto. It absorbed the flavor of the chicken stock well, but had the least flavor of the four risottos. It was also very heavy and sticky and created a film in my mouth. Pan #2 (Carnaroli) had a very nice, light flavor. It was less sticky, but not very creamy at all. Major point deduction for the texture, since I like creamy risottos. Pan #3 (Integrale) was very creamy and had the strongest flavor of all the risottos – Shawn described it as being “meaty” and I thought it was mushroomy. It definitely had an earthy quality to it, but it wasn’t immediately obvious that the flavor was that of brown rice. Pan #4 (Vialone Nano) absorbed the flavor of the chicken stock extremely well. It was creamy, but had a little more texture to it and it wasn’t as heavy or sticky as the Arborio.
And the Verdict Is?
Shawn and I both ranked our favorites without telling the other, and we both had the same ranking! Our favorite was the Integrale, followed by the Vialone Nano, the Arborio, and then the Carnaroli. It’s important to note though, that while the Integrale was our favorite in the simple preparation, its strong flavor won’t lend itself to all risotto recipes. It definitely needs bold ingredients that can stand up to its earthy flavor! (Think mushrooms, bitter greens, beef…) The Vialone Nano is more of an “all purpose” risotto that can be used in any preparation.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get cooking! Here are some of my favorite risotto recipes that I’ve posted in the past: