Culinary Arts

What Is Arborio Rice? Basic Arborio Rice Risotto Recipe

Written by MasterClass

May 29, 2019 • 4 min read

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There’s more to this Italian rice than risotto.

What Is Arborio Rice?

Arborio is an Italian variety of superfino rice, one of the largest among the short Italian rice varieties in the species Oryza sativa japonica. Named after the commune of Arborio in the northwestern Italian region of Piedmont, Arborio rice is high in amylopectin starch, which is what gives risotto its creamy texture. The oval grains are about a quarter of an inch long and typically white. Arborio rice is also available brown (unrefined), but it’s much more commonly sold as white rice, which is starchier.


How to Cook Arborio Rice

You can cook Arborio rice as you would regular rice: In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan, bring 2 cups of salted water to boil over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter, return to a boil, and then add 1 cup of Arborio rice. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until liquid is fully absorbed and rice is al dente, about 20 minutes.

How to Prepare Arborio Rice for Risotto

When making Arborio rice for risotto, do not rinse the rice as you do with other varieties, which can eliminate some of the starch. While the rice cooks, you’ll need to very slowly add about 5 cups of water or broth to 1 cup rice in a large skillet or Dutch oven, allowing the rice to fully absorb the liquid after each addition.

How to Cook Arborio Rice in the Microwave

To make Arborio rice in the microwave, combine 2 cups of water, salt, oil or butter, and 1 cup of rice in a microwave-safe bowl and stir to combine. Loosely cover, leaving a little room for steam to escape, and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes.

Culinary Uses for Arborio Rice

Most famous for its use in risotto, Arborio rice lends its creamy texture for rice pudding, porridge, or other starchy desserts. If rinsed and cooked in the rice cooker or via the stovetop absorption method, rather than in the slow technique of risotto, Arborio won’t absorb as much water and can be used as you would other short-grain rice varieties.

Arborio Rice Nutritional Information

Like all varieties of white rice, Arborio is pretty much devoid of nutrients other than about 50 grams of carbohydrates per cup (around 17 percent of your recommended daily value). Brown Arborio rice, which contains the bran and fiber, is more nutritious than white Arborio, but less starchy, so it will produce a less creamy risotto. Try cooking Arborio rice in vegetable or chicken stock to add vitamins and minerals to your meal.

What Can You Substitute for Arborio Rice?

Arborio isn’t the only rice that can be used for risotto. If your local grocery store doesn’t stock it, or you’re looking to change things up, try:

  • Carnaroli: Sometimes called the “king of rice” (or “caviar of rice”), Carnaroli is another variety of Italian superfino rice high in amylopectin. It’s the biggest of the Italian rice varieties and can be even more expensive and difficult to source than Arborio.
  • Vialone Nano: A smaller-grained Italian variety of rice usually categorized as fino or semifino, Vialone Nano can take on a lot of moisture. It triples in size when cooked.
  • Sushi rice: So-called “sushi” rice is a catchall for various varieties of sticky, starchy short-grain rice, generally from Japan or California.
  • Steel-cut oats: Chef Wolfgang Puck uses steel-cut oats in his Springtime Risotto. Since oats are always whole grain, this is a great way to get some fiber without compromising on creaminess.
  • Pearled barley: High in starch, this grain is a good alternative to rice for a creamy risotto.
  • Farro: Risotto made from farro is called farrotto and has a nutty flavor. Use pearled farro for more starch, or whole-grain farro for added nutrition.
  • Israeli couscous or fregola: Technically pastas, not grains, Israeli couscous and fregola make for a pleasantly chewy risotto.

10 Recipe Ideas Using Arborio Rice

  1. Rice pudding
  2. Spanish paella
  3. Mushroom risotto
  4. Risotto alla Milanese (saffron risotto)
  5. Arancini (Italian fried Arborio rice balls)
  6. Risi e bisi (Italian rice-and-pea stew)
  7. Minestrone with Arborio rice
  8. Risotto al Salto (fried Arborio rice pancake)
  9. Tomatoes stuffed with Arborio rice
  10. Frittata di riso (Arborio rice frittata)

Find more recipe ideas in Chef Gordon Ramsay’s MasterClass.

Basic Arborio Rice Risotto Recipe

Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
55 min
  • 5 cups chicken broth (or chicken stock or salted water)
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped shallots
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 garlic clove)
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • ½ cup dry white wine, room temperature
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring broth to a low boil then reduce heat to low, keeping the broth just below a simmer. You want the broth to be about the same temperature as the rice while it’s cooking.
  2. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-low, then add the onion and cook until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir continuously until fragrant, about 30–60 seconds. Add rice to onion-garlic mixture, season with salt, and stir to combine. Continue stirring until rice is well coated and starting to become translucent, 2–5 minutes.
  3. Add about ½ cup warm broth and a splash of wine to the rice mixture. Stir often, until rice has fully absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining broth in ½ cup increments, following each addition with a splash of wine and allowing rice to absorb liquid between additions, until rice is al dente, about 25–35 minutes. (You may not need all of the liquid.)
  4. Remove pan from heat and add ½ cup cheese and pepper, stirring to combine. Cover and allow to rest 5 minutes. Serve with additional cheese.