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