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Who Says Rice is the Only Grain You Can Risotto?

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In the wintertime (let's be honest: all the time), I take any excuse I can to make risotto. I love to indulge in the hypnotic process of whipping up a batch without a recipe, patiently stirring, adding broth, stirring, adding broth until it's creamy and al dente.

Most often, at least in the U.S., risotto is made with arborio rice: a starchy, short-grained variety that produces a creamy, luxurious finished dish. I have no problem with arborio rice—I love arborio rice! I use it to make Marcella Hazan's rice and smothered cabbage, comforting risi e bisi, and bright, seafood-packed risottos.

Shrimp and Grits Style Risotto

Shrimp and Grits Style Risotto by EmilyNunn

Risi e Bisi

Risi e Bisi by Merrill Stubbs

But! Arborio is not the be-all and end-all of risotto grains. In fact, the risotto method (sweat alliums, toast grains, gradually add broth, stir often) can be achieved with many grains (and grain-like things), to many different, delicious ends. Try subbing in farro for a sweet, earthy dish, or use mung beans for a risotto-like Indian venn pongal. If you want to be really kooky, skip the grains and legumes altogether in favor of sunflower seeds. (Trust us, it's genius.)

So go ahead—try subbing in barley or oats or wheat berries in your next risotto and see if you like the chewier, nuttier result. Or just turn to these 8 recipes—and get the Parmesan ready.

Farro Risotto with Sausage, Mushroom, Peas, and a Poached Egg
Farro Risotto with Sausage, Mushroom, Peas, and a Poached Egg
My New Roots' Inspirational Sunflower Seed Risotto
My New Roots' Inspirational Sunflower Seed Risotto
Couscous Risotto with Tomato, Oregano + Mozzarella

Couscous Risotto with Tomato, Oregano + Mozzarella by CarolineWright

Farro Risotto

Farro Risotto by Merrill Stubbs

Savory 'Venn Pongal' (South Indian Style Rice & Mung Bean Risotto)
Savory 'Venn Pongal' (South Indian Style Rice & Mung Bean Risotto)
Farro Risotto with Greens and Feta

Farro Risotto with Greens and Feta by Alexandra Stafford

Peas Porridge Hot (Oat Risotto with Peas)

Peas Porridge Hot (Oat Risotto with Peas) by mrslarkin

 Roasted Cauliflower Brown Rice Risotto with Lemon, Walnut, and Mascarpone
Roasted Cauliflower Brown Rice Risotto with Lemon, Walnut, and Mascarpone

Do you ever risotto anything other than arborio rice? Give us some grain subbing inspiration in the comments!

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Risotto, Barley, Grains, Oat, Weeknight Cooking, Weekend Cooking, Winter, One-Pot Wonders