Well, maybe not entirely—the cooking method is important, too. But technique alone won’t give you the rich, creamy texture of authentic risotto. You have to use the right kind of rice. Many of us have come to identify risotto with Arborio, but other varieties, such as Carnaroli, Baldo, and Vialone Nano, make excellent risotto as well.
Compared to Carnaroli and Vialone Nano, Arborio and Baldo have a higher starch content and tend to absorb less liquid, resulting in a stickier, more compact risotto. They’re also less forgiving, going from just right to overcooked in a heartbeat.
Carnaroli and, even more so, Vialone Nano contain less starch and absorb lots of liquid, producing a creamier, fluid risotto. Vialone Nano is especially suited to seafood risottos, which are traditionally looser.
While Arborio rice is available in many supermarkets, you’re more likely to find Carnaroli, as well as varieties like Vialone Nano and Baldo, in specialty markets. Online, all four types are available at Chefshop.com, where prices start at $4.49 per package.