The Italian Larder
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Radicchio – See Chicory
Radish (Ravanello / Rapanello) (Raphanus sativus)
There are many varieties of radishes which range in shape, size and colour. Small red, round radish varieties include: Saxa, Ciliegia, Non plus ultra, Rosso tondo a punta bianca (this variety has a white point) Cilindrial varieties include: Candela di fuoco which is red and Candela di ghiaccio which is white inside. They can have a slightly spicy flavour depending on the variety and type of soil they grew in. They are harvested from March through the autumn.
Buy: Look for radishes with fresh, crisp, green leaves with brightly coloured, firm, unblemished roots. It is best to taste one to ensure that it has not become woody and has a good flavour.
Store: To store, remove the leaves and store the roots and leaves in separate plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Prepare: Rinse radishes under cold water and cut off the stem end and any root tip. Prepare just before serving otherwise the radish will begin to lose its juice.
Eat: Radishes are normally eaten raw with olive oil, salt and pepper as in pinzimonio, whole raw with salt, or in sliced in salads. It pairs well with pecorino. While Italians do not cook them, they can also be braised, stained, or boiled. The leaves can also be cooked like turnip or beet greens.
Raisins– See Grape
Ramerino – See Rosemary
Rana pescatrice– See Fish: Monkfish
Rapa rossa – See Beet
Rapanello – See Radish
Rapini – See Broccoletti
Raspberry (Lampone) (Rubus ideaus)
Raspberry is a fruit which has an intense, astringent flavour and high vitamin content. Traditional Italian varieties grow in Pistoia in Toscana and in Torino and Cuneo in Piemonte. They are also grown in Lombardia and grow wild in Alpine woods. They are in season from June through September.
Buy: Raspberries can be wild or cultivated. They are typically red or black but there are also yellow, orange, and purple coloured raspberries. Inspect the package to ensure there are not any juice stains from crushed berries. Select plump berries which are free from mould in the stem cavity. If they are bought loose, only package 200 grams at a time to ensure they don’t crush each other.
Store: Raspberries are very fragile and highly perishable so if possible, buy them local to where they are grown, in season, and have been harvested when ripe. They cannot be stored for very long and are best eaten when purchased. They can be frozen on trays and then transferred to plastic bags to store in the freezer when frozen.
Prepare: Line a tray with kitchen paper and place the berries on top. Look through and discard any mouldy ones, stems, or leaves.
Eat: They can be eaten fresh on their own or with cream, pastry cream, or other fruits such as other berries, nectarines, or peaches as is or on top of tarts. They can be made into gelato, sorbet, cakes (torta meringata ai lamponi), moulds (bavarese ai lamponi), gelatines, mousse, jam, essences, sauces, and syrups. Raspberries are often combined with strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries and sometimes with redcurrants to make sottobosco or frutta di bosco, a mixed berry mixture dressed with lemon juice and/or sugar. They pair well with chocolate.
Ravenello – See Prawn
Raviggiolo Cheese – See Cheese
Razorfish, pearly – See Fish: Wrasse, cleaver
Red onion – See Onion
Red pine mushroom – See Mushroom: Saffron milk-cap
Rhum – See Rum
Riccio di mare – See Sea urchin
Ricciola– See Fish: Amberjack, greater
Rice – See Risotto
Ricotta Cheese – See Cheese
Rigatoni – See Pasta: Dried Pasta
Riso – See Risotto
Risotto / Rice (Riso / Risotto) (Oryza sativa subvar. Japonica)
Equivalents: 50 gms = 1 broth or soup serving
70 gms = 1 side dish serving
80-100 gms = 1 risotto or first course serving
Italy is Europe’s leading rice country. There are 50 varieties of rice grown in Italy which are divided into four categories starting with the shortest grain: commune / ordinario, semifino, fino, and superfino. Rice is often eaten in northern Italy, particularly in Veneto, Lombardia, and Piemonte, and is less popular in southern Italy. Rice is most frequently made into risotto which is considered to be a refined dish since it takes great technique to prepare properly. Risotto is cooked gently and carefully to ensure the proper texture. It is then dressed with different sauces that can include cheese, vegetables (popular in Veneto), fish and seafood (popular in Veneto), meat (popular in Lombardia and Piemonte), or aromatics.
Buy: Risotto is sold in boxes or bags labelled with the category and variety of rice. The variety purchased will depend on the dish. Superfino varieties are the best for making risotto.
Categories (in order of short to long and lower to higher quality):
Comune / Originario is a small, short, round, opaque or pearl grain rice used for soups, broths and desserts. It is slightly resistant to cooking and takes 12 to 13 minutes to cook.
Varieties: Ambra, Balilla, Pierrot, Raffaello
Semifino is a medium length round pearl grain used for soups, timbales, and croquettes. It takes 13 to 15 minutes to cook.
Varieties: Padano, Romeo, Rosa marchetti, Venere, Vialone nano PGI (popular in Veneto where it is used in risottos)
Fino is more elongated in shape with tapered or semi-tapered grains and is good for risotto and fillings for stuffed vegetables, timbales, and moulds. This grain can absorb a lot of liquid without breaking up. It takes 14 to 16 minutes to cook.
Varieties: Razza 77, Ribe, Ringo, Rizzotto, Santandrea
Superfino is a long or very long grain, starchy rice which is best for risotto. When cooked, the starch is released but the centre remains firm. This contrast in textures is highly valued. This grain can absorb a lot of liquid without breaking up. It is very resistant to cooking and takes 16 to 20 minutes to cook depending on the variety.
Varieties: Arborio (popular in Lombardia and Piemonte), Baldo, Carnaroli, Carallo, Maratelli, Roma, Thaibonnet, Volano grita
Parboiling is where the rice is pre-cooked quickly to make the rice quicker to cook at home. It is fine for rice salads but is not suitable for risotto.
Riso integrale / Sbramato is unrefined rice which still contains the germ.
Vialone is unpolished rice.
Store: Store rice sealed in a cool, dry place at room temperature. It can be stored for months. Unrefined rice is more perishable. Sunlight can turn the oils rancid. Cooked rice can be stored sealed in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
Prepare: Never rinse or boil and drain risotto rice as it is prized for its starch content which will be lost using these processes. To make risotto, use a heavy, wide, deep saucepan with rounded bottom to ensure even cooking. The rice should be toasted first in butter or oil (tostatura) for 4 to 5 minutes until the rice glistens. If onions are used, they must be slowly cooked in butter, never taking on colour. Risotto must be watched and stirred constantly with a wooden spoon, slowly adding a liquid bit by bit (the ratio is typically one part rice to 3 to 4 parts liquid depending on the variety), never allowing the rice to stick to the pan. It should be tender with a firm centre, swimming in a creamy liquid (all’onda) with some butter added just before the end of cooking and allowed to rest.
Eat: Rice is used in risotto (risotto nero, risi e bisi, risotto alla milanese, risotto primavera, risotto bianco), boiled and dressed (riso in cagnone), boiled and baked (riso arrosto, riso in tortiera, tiella di riso con le cozze), stuffings, timbales (bomba di riso, sartù di riso alla napoletana), salads and soups (minestrone, riso in brodo, riso e castagne, riso e latte). Leftover risotto is often made into pan-fried cakes (risotto al salto) or deep-fried croquettes (supplì, arancini).
Rovella – See Fish: Roach
Rock lobster – See Lobster
Rocket / Arugula / Rucola (Rucola) (Eruca sativa, Diplotaxis tenuifolia)
Regional names: wild rocket: erba rugo, ricola, ruchetta, rughetta
Rocket is a slightly bitter, peppery leaf vegetable which is part of the mustard family. It is sometimes considered a herb and other times a lettuce as it can be eaten as both. Rocket can be cultivated or grown wild. Rocket has an elongated leaf with a slender stem with smaller leaves coming off the stem. Wild rocket is typically thinner and has smaller leaves with a more delicate flavour. It is a good source of Vitamin C and has some iron.
Buy: Rocket is typically sold in bunches or in bags. One bunch is enough to flavour a mixed salad. Look for fresh, crisp leaves which are green (not yellow) and unblemished (not wilted or wet). The larger the leaves, the more peppery and spicy the rocket. Buy small, tender leaves, which are relatively mild in flavour. If sold in a bag, make sure there is no evidence of sweating (precipitation) in the bag.
Rocket (Rucola domestica) (Eruca sativa) is cultivated rocket which has a more pronounced peppery flavour and larger broad leaves than wild rocket. It is typically eaten raw.
Wild rocket (Rucola selvatica) (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) grows wild in central and southern Italy. It has a more delicate flavour and smaller leaves than cultivated rocket. It is eaten raw but is also cooked.
Store: Rocket can be stored in a bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Only wash just before eating.
Prepare: Loose rocket can be sandy so fill a basin with lots of cold water and agitate the water to allow the sand to fall to the bottom of the basin. Repeat until no more sand is present and dry thoroughly in a salad spinner or on kitchen towels. Discard any long stems. Any pale yellow blossoms can be reserved. Dress rocket with oil and vinegar just before eating or it will go soggy.
Eat: Rocket is normally eaten raw, on its own or mixed with other vegetables. It can be used to top pizza, carpaccio, or steak (tagliata) or be cooked in pastas (cavatièddi), casseroles (pancotto con rucola e patate) and soups. It can be eaten steamed. Rocket pairs well with prosciutto, pecorino cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Grana Padano cheese, beef, tomatoes, olives, eggs, onions, figs, olive oil, nuts, lemon and red wine vinegar.
Romanesco – See Broccoli
Romanesco broccoli – See Broccoli
Rombo chiodato– See Fish: Turbot
Rombo liscio – See Fish: Brill
Rombo soaso – See Fish: Brill
Rosemarino – See Rosemary
Rosemary (Rosemarino / Ramerino) (Rosmarinus officinalis – prostrates, aureus, roseus)
Rosemary is an evergreen whose leaves are more similar to pine needs. It can be cultivated or wild and is a staple in Italian cooking. It is always green and available all year-round. Rosemary is the symbol of fidelity and friendship. Rosemary is said to help the memory.
Buy: Look for fresh looking leaves which are green. They should not be dried out, brittle, or brown. Rosemary can be purchased fresh or dry. Dried rosemary is not an acceptable substitute as it quickly loses its essential oils. As dried rosemary is dried, loose needles, it lends an unpleasant texture to food.
Store: Store the rosemary in plastic in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
Prepare: Wash the rosemary well and dry thoroughly with a thin cloth. If loose needles are called for, pluck the leaves by holding the branch by the tip and squeezing the top between your pointer finger and thumb and running it along the branch towards the cut end, dislodging the leaves as you go. Finely chop or grind in a mortar and pestle.
Eat: The woody branches are great for skewering meat to be barbequed and the leaves are excellent to flavour lamb, chicken, beef, rabbit, pork, veal, goose, large fish, octopus, potatoes, and beans. The leaves are also used for flavouring soups, breads (focaccia), crepes (farinata), oils, vinegars, sauces, roasted or grilled meats, and fish. The leaves are crushed in battuto or bouquets garnis (mazzetto odoroso) and used to flavour many dishes. Rosemary can also be used in sweet dishes such as castagnaccio or schiacciata d’uva from Toscana. Rosemary is always eaten cooked and never raw as it has quite a pungent flavour. However, rosemary’s tiny purple flowers can be eaten raw, added to salads and risottos or they can be candied and added to desserts. Rosemary pairs well with garlic, thyme, savoury, and sage.
Rospo – See Fish: Monkfish
Rossetto – See Fish: Goby
Rosso di Treviso – See Chicory
Rossa di Tropea PGI – See Onion
Rucola – See Rocket
Rum is a spirit of Caribbean origin made from distilled sugar cane juice or molasses with a minimum alcohol content of 40%.
Buy: Rum is now produced in many countries and there are many high quality rums in the market, some aged for 20 years or more in oak (ron Viejo / ron añejo). The best rums come from Haiti and Guyana. Rum can be clear (light rum), golden (gold rum), or dark brown (dark rum) in colour. Aging will colour the rum.
Añejo / Cuban rum (produced in the Spanish speaking countries of the Caribbean such as Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico) have a smooth taste. There are versions which are flavoured with Sherry, raisins, or caramel (spiced rum). The carta blanca is the most typical type available.
Carta blanca is dry and clear
Carta di oro is milder and brown, aged for a few years.
Jamaican rum (produced in the English speaking countries of the Caribbean such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Belize, Bermuda, Saint Kitts, and Guyana) has a long fermentation process. It is strongly flavoured with a fuller underlying molasses flavour. It is often mixed with lighter rums after aging.
Rhum agricole / Caribbean rum (produced in the French speaking countries of the Caribbean such as Haiti, Barbados, and Martinique) are more lightly coloured and flavoured with a lower alcohol content than Jamaican rum but are stronger than Cuban rum. It is made from sugar cane juice and is more expensive than the Cuban or Jamaican rums. The best of these rums are selected for “riserva” and are aged for 5 or more years.
Arak / Asian rum (produced in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India) are made with cane sugar, rice, coconut, and dates.
Store: Store sealed in a cool place at room temperature.
Prepare: No special preparation is necessary.
Eat: In Italy rum is enjoyed as a beverage or used as a flavouring in cakes, puddings, pastry (babà al rhum), syrups, fruit salad (macedonia), and gelato.
Runner bean- See Green bean