Is Risotto Rice or Pasta?[An Insight]

At least once in our lifetime most of us have tried risotto – a warm, creamy, cheesy dish that gives you an ultimate comfort food experience. This humble dish gained popularity in gourmet kitchens, leading many of us to wonder what and how is it made.

Risotto is a popular North Italian dish made from the European variety of rice – arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano. Arborio rice is commonly used to make risotto. Although, the grains of rice are similar to ‘orzo’ or ‘risoni’ which are grain-shaped pasta. So it’s easy to confuse the two.

This article let us understand what risotto is all about. Although an Italian dish – is it made up of rice or pasta? Or, is it both?

is risotto a grain?

Risotto is the name of the dish that is the end result of the cooking process of the various ingredients used to make a risotto. One of the primary ingredients is a variety of rice that has a tendency to release starches while cooking and become sticky and creamy.

Since rice is a grain so thus risotto is a dish that is made up of grains, vegetables and meat are then added to the recipe to make the dish healthier as well as add flavor.

What Is Risotto Made Of?

Risotto is made from grain as it is made from varieties of rice – arboriocarnaroli, or vialone nano which are found all over Europe. Although, not very extensively used in European cooking. These varieties are mostly used in North Italian Cooking to make risotto-like dishes.

These grains have a tendency to absorb lots of liquid during the cooking process and gain a creamy consistency. The rice is cooked in olive oil until it becomes tender then water or broth is added to the rice while constantly stirring so that it releases its starch, gains a creamy texture, and creates a saucy consistency for the dish.

A commonly used variety to make risotto is arborio rice which has a shorter grain size compared to other varieties. Carnaroli rice, although difficult to find, is the most premium quality rice with a larger grain size which releases the starches well and is perfect to achieve the creaminess of the risotto.

Today, many gourmet chefs are experimenting which other grains to form risotto-like dishes.

Does risotto count as pasta?

Risotto is an Italian dish but does not count as pasta. In many restaurants it might be listed in the menu under the subheading of ‘Pasta’, but it is a rice dish. It is creamy and saucy just like pasta but that is mainly because of the variety of rice used. It gains a cheesy flavor which is due to the addition of cheese to the dish.

Pasta is primarily made up of wheat, a special variety of wheat called – durum wheat. The wheat is then milled into flour. This flour is blended with eggs, water, and salt and then rolled into various shapes. Each shape gives a distinct name to the pasta.

Difference between Risotto and Pasta

The table below lets us understand the key differences between risotto and pasta.

Risotto is made from Rice.Pasta is made from wheat.
The rice in risotto is not processed further but cooked directly.Wheat is milled into flour or semolina and then mixed with water, salt, and/or eggs.
Risotto rice is not given any shape.The flour paste is then turned into a variety of shapes having distinct names and abilities to hold the sauce in the pasta.
The Risotto dish does not need any additional dairy as the rice is capable enough to bring out the creaminess.To make the pasta sauce creamy dairy is a key component.
It is a perfect dish for people with dairy intolerance.Dairy has to be substituted with other plant-based dairy or fruits such as avocado or cauliflower to achieve creaminess for those who would like to avoid dairy or have a dairy intolerance.

Related Reading: “Does Pasta Contain Egg? [A Complete Guide!]”

Is Risotto Rice Healthier Than Pasta?

Risotto rice is definitely healthier than durum wheat pasta as a bowl of risotto rice contains around 160 calories whereas a bowl of pasta contains around 250 – 300 calories. Most of the calories in Risotto rice come from starch whereas, in a bowl of pasta, they are obtained from carbohydrates.

NHS suggests that starchy foods as a main source of carbohydrates in our diet are much healthier than the traditional sources of carbohydrates. Starchy foods also provide more nutrition and fiber. Many believe that starchy foods are fattening however gram to gram they consist of fewer calories than half the calories of fat.

Also, one of the most important aspects of the dish is the risotto’s creamy texture which is primarily achieved by the method of cooking the risotto rice which allows whereas in a pasta dish dairy and cheese are added which add far more calories compared to traditional risotto.

Related Reading: “Does Cooked Pasta Go Bad? [Here’s What to Know!]”

Thus without adding too much fats such as olive oil, butter, or cheese a bowl of risotto is a much healthier choice than pasta.

is risotto Rice healthier than White rice?

Risotto Rice is not healthier than white rice or brown rice. There are far more calories in 100 grams of arborio rice compared to white rice which is only 130. Also, carbohydrates in arborio rice are 80 grams which is more compared to white or brown rice which is 28 grams.

Even the sugar content in arborio rice is greater than white rice by 2.1 grams. Although arborio rice has more fiber and protein content than white rice.

 Arborio Rice (100 grams)White Rice (Long grain) (100 grams)

Note: White Rice and Brown Rice have similar nutritional values.

Is Risotto Gluten-Free?

Risotto rice is absolutely cent percent gluten-free however risotto may or may not be gluten-free as there might be other ingredients that are being put in the risotto that might not make it gluten-free. If you are looking for a gluten-free risotto at a restaurant you will have to check with them.

Albeit you can ensure that the risotto is gluten-free by making it at home. This helps to know that you are using gluten-free ingredients.

Related Reading: “Difference Between Pasta and Spaghetti [Complete Guide!]”

Is Arborio Pasta Or Rice?

Arborio is one of the three varieties of rice that is commonly used in making risotto. The other two varieties are carnaroli and vialone nano. Arborio rice has a shorter grain size compared to the other varieties of rice. It is widely available and hence the most popular choice to make risotto.

Carnaroli has grains that are larger in size and have the perfect starchiness to create the consistency of a sauce. However, since it is not easily available thus it is not commonly used.

Is it Orzo Rice Or Pasta?

Orzo is the name given to the shape of pasta that looks very similar to small grains of barley. Orzo in Italian means barley. Since pasta is primarily named based on its shape. Hence the variety of pasta that looks like small grains is called ‘Orzo’.

Pasta that looks like bigger or larger grains is called ‘Risoni’ which in Italian means large or big rice. It is easier to confuse since there are varieties of pasta that look like grains.

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