Ribe rice is a rice cultivar developed by crossing several strains of rice from Italy and the United States. Depending on the cross, ribe rice can be short, medium, or long grain, but certain characteristics are retained in all grain lengths. One of the primary uses for this rice is parboiling, which is done to make the rice easier to cook; many parboiled rice products are made with ribe rice, even if the label doesn't indicate this.
This rice is a cultivar of Oryza sativa ssp japonica, a very popular rice subspecies which is grown all over the world. The grains of ribe rice tend to be larger than other cultivars, and the rice also has a structure which is often described as crystalline. The structure of the rice makes it extremely absorbent. Some people consider ribe to be a more rustic rice cultivar, since it can cook to a coarse or rough texture.
When the rice is parboiled before cooking, it tends to retain its shape more, and it will remain chewy with a resilient texture through the cooking process, rather than turning mushy. This rice also tends to cook dry, which means that the individual grains will not clump together or turn into a mash during the cooking process.
Many cooks like to use the short-grained variety of ribe rice for risotto; this rice is also referred to as Arborio rice, referencing the region of Italy where it is grown. Other traditional Mediterranean dishes with rice, such as paella, can also be made with ribe rice. In dishes where the rice is toasted in the pan first, this rice can develop a slightly translucent appearance and it will be infused with flavor from the other ingredients, thanks to its high absorbency.
Many grocers carry this rice in their rice section, although it will not always be clearly identified as “ribe rice.” For cooks who want to experiment with this rice cultivar, Arborio rice can be a good place to start. Just like other rices, ribe rice should be thoroughly rinsed before it is cooked to reduce starch and remove detritus from the field, and it tends to cook to a better texture when it is soaked before cooking.