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What is Carnaroli Rice?

Niki Acker
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Carnaroli rice is a type of short-grain Italian rice sometimes used in risotto dishes. While arborio rice is the best known type of rice used in risotto, particularly in the United States, many cooks prefer carnaroli. Carnaroli rice, like arborio, contains more starch than other rice varieties. However, it retains liquid and holds its shape better than arborio rice and has a larger grain, making for a more textured dish.

Carnaroli is among the more expensive rices used for risotto, and it can be hard to find as well. Italian markets are most likely to sell carnaroli rice, but other specialty stores or mail order suppliers may carry it as well. Carnaroli is grown in the Italian towns of Novara and Vercelli, located between Milan and Turin. Though Americans may know Italian cuisine for its pasta and pizza, rice is extremely important in Northern Italy. In fact, Italy is the largest producer of rice in Europe.

Risotto made with carnaroli rice can be a side dish or a main dish, depending on the ingredients. In Italy, it is often used as a vehicle for seasonal vegetables. The extra starch in the rice is responsible for the creamy texture of risotto, so it is important not to wash the rice grains before cooking them. The high amylase starch content in carnaroli rice allows it to keep its shape while absorbing flavors well and resisting over-cooking. Carnaroli makes a risotto that is fluffy, but not sticky.

While arborio rice is the most consistent variety, carnaroli is best suited to delicate, sophisticated dishes, such as risottos featuring white truffle or saffron. Though it is a short-grain rice, carnaroli is more elongated than other Italian risotto rices, giving it a more elegant look and feel. Carnaroli rice is sometimes referred to as the king of rice. In addition to risottos, it may be used in other gourmet dishes, such as a timbale or a rice salad.

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Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a DelightedCooking editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On Mar 17, 2011

@turkay-- Yes, there is brown carnaroli rice, you can get it from online Italian grocery stores.

I prefer eating brown rice too because it is less processed and more nutritious. I have tried making risotto with brown carnaroli, but it was so difficult to cook! Brown carnaroli is much more resistant to cooking than regular carnaroli and the risotto didn't turn out the same.

I personally don't prefer brown carnaroli for risotto, but if you are willing to cook it for an extended period and don't mind the difference in flavor, then why not?

By candyquilt — On Mar 16, 2011

I love risotto! I haven't had any in a long time though because I have become more conscious about my health. I'm not allowed any white rice or white bread because I need to loose weight.

Is there such a thing as brown carnaroli rice? I'm allowed to have brown rice so if I can find brown carnaroli, I can make risotto!

By helene55 — On Mar 15, 2011

Carnaroli rice really does have a different taste and texture from brown rice or basmati rice- like the article says, it's sort of "fluffy". I love it not only with risotto or pudding, but other dishes that have sauces.

By bear78 — On Mar 15, 2011

I use carnaroli rice when making rice pudding. Actually, carnaroli rice and whole fat organic milk is key to making great rice pudding.

One time, I was out of carnaroli rice so I made rice pudding with my jasmine rice and that was a disaster. Long grain rice is definitely not suited for making rice pudding. It absorbed way too much milk and I ended up with a pudding with more rice than milk. It was lumpy and unattractive too.

This never happens with carnaroli rice, it doesn't absorb too much liquid but still cooks perfectly and looks great at the end.

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a DelightedCooking editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range...
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