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Carnaroli/arborio rice (Recipe: three mushroom risotto)

Three mushroom risotto

My grandmother called her refrigerator "the frigidaire", and tissues "kleenex".

Though both were brand names, she meant them in the lower-case sense. The brand became the generic.

I can't remember when I first saw a package of "risotto" in the supermarket, but I remember groaning. When did carnaroli and arborio rice lose their identities to the generic?

Arborio rice

Carnaroli, a relatively new rice hybridized in the 1950s, grows nearly twice as tall as arborio, making it difficult and expensive to harvest; it's also more expensive to buy, which is one reason arborio (the one that's labeled "risotto") is the rice you find in your regular grocery store. You can find carnaroli at any Italian market, or online from Zingermans or Salumeria Italiana.

In the photo above, carnaroli is the rice on the right, fatter than the long-grain white rice (at left), longer than the bomba rice in the middle. Arborio is white like the carnaroli, fat but slightly shorter.

Classified as a superfino because the grains are longer than 6.4 millimeters, carnaroli can absorb a staggering amount of liquid, swelling to three times its size. High in amylopectin (one of two components of starch), carnaroli produces a very creamy risotto, which is one reason chefs prefer it. The other reason is that it's a bit more forgiving; there is a longer time between when carnaroli is just cooked, and when it morphs into something you'd use to mortar a brick wall.

When you're cooking with short-grain rices, note that the proportion of liquid to rice is approximately 4-to-1, compared to the 2-to-1 ratio for cooking long-grain white rice.

Store arborio or carnaroli in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, for a year or more in a cool, dark part of your pantry. Rice can handle anything except moisture.

Just don't call it "risotto."

Mushroom risotto

Three mushroom risotto

A little bit of tomato paste and thyme accentuate the woodsy quality of the mushrooms. Note: if you use homemade chicken stock, you'll need to add salt when you add the stock to the rice. Serves 4 for main course, 6-8 for appetizer.


6 cups chicken or beef broth (I use 4 cups of Swanson 99% fat free plus 2 cups of water, but homemade is great, if you have it)
1 cup water
2 oz dried porcini or any wild mushrooms
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup finely minced onion
2  cups arborio or carnaroli rice
1 cup white wine
14 oz fresh mushrooms (at least two types; I use cremini or baby bellas plus white button mushrooms), sliced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated, or more to taste
Black pepper (at least 1/2 tsp or more), to taste


Bring 6 cups of broth (or broth and water) to boil in a large pot and set aside at a simmer on the stove. In a microwave, boil 1 cup water in a glass measuring cup, then add dried mushrooms, and set aside. Heat oil in a large straight-sided sauté pan. Add onion, and sauté until soft. Stir in the rice, making sure to coat each grain, and let toast for 1-2 minutes.

Remove pan from heat, and stir in the wine (watch out for splatters). Keep stirring for a few seconds. When the liquid is absorbed, begin adding broth, 1 ladleful at a time, letting each bit of liquid be absorbed.

In the meantime, when the dried mushrooms are soft, strain and reserve the liquid. After 3 cups of broth are added, pour in the mushroom soaking water, being careful to leave behind the sediment in the bottom of the measuring cup. After 5 cups of broth are added, stir in the fresh mushrooms, thyme and tomato paste. Continue adding one more cup of broth, reserving 1/4 cup. Stir until mushrooms have given off their liquid and almost all of the liquid in the pan has been absorbed by the rice.

Remove pan from heat. Add butter and cheese, and stir vigorously for 2 minutes. Add in reserved 1/4 cup broth, if needed to finish cooking the rice. Season to taste with lots of black pepper, and salt if needed, and serve immediately.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Risotto alla Milanese
Green herb risotto
Risotto with grapefruit
Pie-ella, improved

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Lydia, oh thanks! eventaully you solved the puzzle in my head (difference between carnaroli and arborio). And love your photos!

I usually buy arborio because it's easier to find, but I like the idea of carnaroli being harder to "screw up". And I love this risotto, yum, mushrooms!

The rice used in risotto can make a huge difference to the outcome. I am always looking for new and seasonal ways to introduce risotto to my weekly meals.

I used to think "risotto" was going to be quite difficult, and then mastered it. With this crisp chill in the air, it's time to get back to the pot.

Lydia, you've got some superstar rice here and I'd say mushroom and seafood risottos are my faves.

Risotto is also a great excuse for opening a bottle of wine to sip on whilst stirring!

Ha! Love it...no risotto rice! :)

Your dish looks fantastic!


In my mind all omelets and risottos are best with mushrooms!
Looks tasty, interesting to see the three rices together.
I haven't seen the carnaroli before, the only medium grain rice I see in our markets are the arborio and calrose.

Did I miss something? What is Bomba? (In Israel it's the name of a puffed snack that they've convinced themselves is healthy because it's made with peanut butter.)
Do you have Ada Boni's Regional Italian Cookbook? That book was how we first got the courage to make risotto (60's? 70's?) and it blew us away -- rich, creamy, full of flavor. Well, I have both carnaroli and arborio in my pantry -- time to get the courage back for this recipe.

Gattina, I never thought much about the difference between the two rices until I tried the same recipe, side by side, one with each rice. Then I saw the difference, especially in creaminess.

Alta, carnaroli is getting easier to find, especially online.

Bellini Valli, which type of rice do you prefer?

TW, risotto is all about the method. Understand the method, and you can make any variation. And the method is easy. It's the recipes for risotto that are scary!

Peter, my second favorite risotto is a saffron risotto with shrimp and asparagus, perhaps because the colors are so gorgeous.

Bridget, thanks. This dish says "Fall" to me.

Natashya, I love eggs and onions with mushrooms, too.

Susan, you didn't miss something -- I did, and I've added the link to "bomba rice" into the post. Bomba is the rice you'd use for paella. It's a very short grain, much stubbier than arborio and definitely shorter than carnaroli. And thanks for the cookbook referral; I don't have it but will look for it at my favorite used/rare cookbook store. (If you ever come down to RI, I'll take you there.)

I love risotto but I've never made it at home (and it's not remotely diet-friendly for me, sigh.) Great tutorial on the different kinds of rice. Your posts are always a wealth of information.

I love the combination of rice and mushrooms.

I had to laugh at your comment about your grandmother. It drives me nuts that Martha Stewart calls copies Xeroxes!! I mean, it's Martha. She should know better!

My few attempts at risotto were not great and I know it was the brand of rice so thanks for the tips here.

P.S. And the copy machine was called "the Xerox".

I think I could a risotto every night of the week.

Great post, Lydia. I bought some canaroli at an Italian store in Portland this summer and haven't used it yet. Your photos and recipe have given me the nudge I needed.

Great info on the different rices! Delicious recipe.

I have yet to make a Risotto, but this should help. I love mushrooms, the more the better.

hehehe , when i was a small kid like 5 or 6 i always tell my dad to buy "colgate" not because i like the brand but because i thought toothpaste meant colgate :-D

this risotto is for my hubby who loves mushroom and yes it's mushroom season in france, cant wait to make one like this!!

Your risotto is beautiful! (Much prettier than mine. :)

Kalyn, risotto is a very occasional treat for me, too, as the rice really affects blood sugar levels. But it is oh-so-good when I treat myself.

Janel, I didn't know that about Martha. That drives me nuts, too.

Joan, risotto has so few ingredients that each one must be the best you can find. It really will make a difference.

Pam, the infinite variations on basic risotto mean you would never get bored!

Christine, carnaroli is my absolute favorite rice, and I use it for fried rice dishes and rice pudding, too.

Italian Dish, thanks. I love rice and it's fun to experiment with different types.

Melynda, don't be afraid of risotto. It's really easy, and one method works for all.

Dhanggit, this would be so delicious with fresh cepes and the dried cepes we find in the farmers markets near my sister-in-law's house in the south of France. Enjoy.

Hillary, thank you. This is really my favorite risotto, though not the most colorful.

Mmm fungus, how I love it so. Seems so comforting in risotto form.

We are having perfect risotto weather right now. And ofcourse it gotta have mushrooms!

I'm a sucker for a good mushroom risotto!

Does your grandmother have any Romanian background? 'Frigidaire' is phonetically how you say 'frigider' in Romanian, meaning fridge.

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