Risotto is a traditional rice-based Italian staple belonging to the “first” courses or primo piatto. Although rice was already known to the ancient Romans it was used by them solely for medical purposes. But the situation changed rapidly in the 15th century when the fast-growing population of the Northern Italian cities Milan and Turin required much more food than ever. In 1475, Galeazzo Maria Sforza , the notorious Duke of Milan wrote in a letter to the Duke of Ferrara a description of the rice fields surrounding his city, the capital of Lombardy region. The River Po valley appeared to be the ideal place for the water-loving rice plants and now Italy exports the famous Arborio rice giving the perfect al dente risotto. With our recipe we present a barley-based risotto or orzotto as it is called in Italy. Barley cooked instead of rice gives a slightly chewier dish and provides higher levels of fibre which help to reduce the “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol thus reducing the risk of heart diseases. Additionally, dehulled barley is a source of good-quality protein which nutritionally outperforms that of wheat. Some recent studies found mushrooms to have a positive impact on weight management, cognitive function and reducing the risk of cancer. Moreover, Portobello mushrooms may support immune system through interaction with gut microbiota. And let’s not forget about celery which is an excellent source of essential oils, phenolic compounds and vitamins. Celery possess anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties as well. Essentially Orzotto is an energy-rich dish providing a boost for the remainder of the day. In Italian, the word riso has a double meaning describing both rice and laughter. So when cooking our delicious risotto, remember that in Italy those who laugh easily are told: che aveva mangiato la minestra di riso meaning “who has eaten laughter or… rice soup!” So the choice is only up to you!
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