Paella rice and Risotto rice… The climates in which they grow are very similar, one is not inferior in appearance to the other, and both types of rice are used in a Mediterranean single-pan dish. Even so, paella rice and risotto rice are not entirely the same thing.
There are no such things as paella rice and risotto rice
Before we look further into the differences and similarities, it is important to take a good look at the particular types of rice.
The names ‘paella rice’ and ‘risotto rice’ are meaningless in and of themselves. Neither term is the name of a specific product, but rather a classifying term describing their use, namely for paella or risotto. However, different types of rice are in fact used for both dishes.
Paella is mainly made with the rice types of Bomba rice, Redondo rice, or Albufera rice. Bomba rice is the most famous and the most luxurious of these rice types, but the more affordable Redondo rice is most commonly used to make paella in Spain.
In other words, while all three types of rice are perfectly suitable for making paella, these types of rice are certainly not the same.
In the case of risotto rice, these types of rice are actually almost the same. Here you have the luxurious Carnaroli rice and the more common Arborio rice.
Arroz Bomba and Riso Carnaroli are the most exclusive varieties of paella rice and risotto rice. Comparing these two types of rice, we find the following similarities:
- Both types of rice have a high amylose content. Amylose is a component of starch that serves as a binding agent in the dish.
- Also, both Carnaroli rice and Bomba rice* have a relatively low glycemic index. This ensures fewer fluctuations in blood sugar levels, making them more suitable for diabetics.
The amylose present in rice dissolves in the liquid used to cook the rice, acting as a binding agent for the liquid while making the rice less sticky.
This is important because the rice in risotto and paella should have a loose structure. Especially with risotto, it is often thought that the rice should be sticky, but it is the cheese and the thickened liquid that bind. The rice itself should have a loose structure so that you can taste separate grains of rice.
This is in contrast to many Asian rice dishes such as sushi, where the rice has to stick together.
The difference between paella rice and risotto rice is mainly the way they are used in the dishes.
A good risotto has a creamy, somewhat viscous structure, while good paella should be slightly dry and even a little crispy.
Furthermore, paella rice is cooked in a large, shallow, paella pan, so a thin layer of rice is formed and excess liquid can evaporate easily. Risotto rice, on the other hand, is cooked in a deeper pan, as you want all the liquid to be absorbed by the rice.
One final difference is the fact that risotto is stirred constantly while cooking, whereas paella should not be stirred at all.
The differences in the way the rice is prepared results in the specific characteristics of risotto and paella rice being augmented, so the dishes have completely different structures, taste experiences, and presentations.
Although paella rice and risotto rice certainly have similarities, switching rice in your paella is not recommended if you want to achieve a good result.
Feel like making your own paella?
Would you like to make your own delicious paella? Then take a look at the paella recipes page elsewhere on our site. There you will find the tastiest and most authentic paella recipes with meat, fish, shellfish, and crustaceans, or even completely vegetarian. Very tasty!
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