Budino is a sweet Italian pudding known for its light yet filling texture and intense flavor. This type of dessert gets its name simply from the Italian word for "pudding," and different bakers can have their own unique takes on budino recipes. Some variations have a denser texture than others depending on the ingredients, such as eggs and cake flour, making this dish a versatile one. Different textures are often created with the inclusion of rice, semolina, or ricotta cheese. Popular flavors for this dessert include chocolate, lemon, and butterscotch.
Traditional Italian cooking often calls for budino to be made with more custard-like than cake-like texture, although the exact recipe ingredients may vary according to regions and family traditions. A classic version originating from Northern Italy is known as budino di riso, which gets its texture and flavor from a mixture of boiled rice, rum, raisins, candied orange peel, and vanilla. Successfully bringing together these flavors requires raw rice that will release starch when heated in simmering milk; the key to achieving the right custard texture is to cook the rice only in milk until it is tender but not entirely softened. The rest of the ingredients are then usually added before the rice is allowed to finish completely cooking.
Some Italian bakers who prefer this dessert without the boiled rice substitute semolina, which is a type of wheat grain also used for some types of pasta and cereals. Budino di semolino is a recipe that requires this ingredient along with the raisins and rum but often not with the vanilla extract or candied orange. This version has a somewhat different consistency, and it usually needs to be baked further in small dessert molds once the ingredients have been heated and mixed together in a pot on a stove-top.
Flavor from lemon zest in this dish is usually found in budino di ricotta, a somewhat smoother recipe version. This pudding is often made by first straining any lumps out of unsweetened ricotta cheese and then whipping it together with egg yolks and sugar. Ground sweet and bitter almonds are also added to bring out more of the lemon taste.
Butterscotch budino is a rich and smooth pudding made from heavy cream usually combined with cornstarch or cake flour, dark brown sugar, and dark rum. Separated egg yolks and whole milk help give this variation its thicker texture as well. Chocolate flavor can be created as an alternative by adding grated unsweetened baking chocolate and vanilla extract in place of the rum and brown sugar.