Monday, February 27th 2023

Italian risotto is a classic rice dish that has been enjoyed in Italy for centuries. The origin of risotto is a bit unclear, but it's generally believed to have originated in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, particularly in the city of Milan.

Risotto is made with a special variety of short-grain rice, usually Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano, that's cooked slowly with broth, wine, and other ingredients until it becomes creamy and tender. The dish can be made with a variety of ingredients, such as vegetables, meats, seafood, and cheeses, and is often flavored with saffron, which gives it a distinctive yellow color and subtle flavor.

The exact origin of risotto is unknown, but it's believed to have been first made in the 16th century. One popular legend attributes the creation of risotto to Valerio di Fiandra, a Flemish chef who was working in Milan in the late 16th century. According to the legend, Valerio created risotto as a way to impress his Milanese clients and used saffron, which was a rare and expensive spice at the time, to give the dish its distinctive color and flavor.

Today, risotto is a beloved dish throughout Italy and has become popular in other parts of the world as well. While it's most commonly associated with northern Italian cuisine, you can find delicious variations of risotto in restaurants and home kitchens throughout the country.

Regional Styles

Italy is known for its diverse regional cuisines, and risotto is no exception. While risotto is enjoyed throughout Italy, there are certain regions that are known for their distinct styles and variations of the dish.

Here are some of the top regional styles of risotto in Italy:

  1. Risotto alla Milanese - This is the classic risotto from Milan that's made with saffron, giving it a distinctive yellow color and subtle flavor.

  2. Risotto alla Parmigiana - This variation from Parma is made with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and often features mushrooms, peas, or other vegetables.

  3. Risotto al Barolo - This rich and flavorful dish from Piedmont is made with the famous Barolo wine, which gives it a deep red color and robust flavor.

  4. Risotto ai Frutti di Mare - This seafood risotto from the coastal regions of Italy is made with a variety of fresh seafood, such as shrimp, clams, and mussels, and often includes tomatoes and herbs.

  5. Risotto alla Zucca - This autumnal risotto from Lombardy is made with pumpkin or other types of squash and often features a variety of herbs and spices.

To sample these regional styles of risotto, it's best to visit the areas where they originate. Milan, Parma, Piedmont, and the coastal regions of Italy are all great places to try some of the best risotto in the country. However, you can also find delicious variations of risotto in restaurants and home kitchens throughout Italy.

Restaurants best known for their risotto

There are many restaurants in Italy that are famous for their delicious risotto. Here are a few top recommendations:

  1. Il Ristorante Trussardi alla Scala, Milan - This Michelin-starred restaurant is known for its Risotto alla Milanese, made with Carnaroli rice, beef broth, and saffron. The restaurant is located in the heart of Milan, just a short walk from the famous La Scala opera house.

  2. Osteria Francescana, Modena - This three-Michelin-starred restaurant is famous for its innovative take on traditional Italian dishes, including its risotto. Chef Massimo Bottura creates a variety of risotto dishes, such as Risotto alla Parmigiana with aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Risotto with Squid Ink and Seafood.

  3. Antica Osteria Cera, Bergamo - This historic restaurant in the city of Bergamo is known for its classic Risotto alla Bergamasca, made with sausage, red wine, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

  4. Trattoria da Romano, Venice - Located on the island of Burano in the Venetian Lagoon, this restaurant is famous for its Risotto di Gò, made with the local goby fish and its broth, giving the dish a unique and delicate flavor.

  5. Osteria del Pegno, Turin - This traditional restaurant in the city of Turin is known for its Risotto al Barolo, made with the famous Barolo wine from the Piedmont region, which gives the dish its rich, red color and deep flavor.

These restaurants are just a few examples of the many great places to enjoy risotto in Italy. It's always a good idea to do some research and ask locals for recommendations to find the best risotto wherever you are in the country.