Italian Brazilians form a large part of the country’s population, with over 60,000 individuals claiming Italian heritage in Sao Paulo alone! This means that, along with other customs, Italian food has made its way well into mainstream Brazilian cuisine. Today’s dish of shrimp risotto is heavily rooted in Italian tradition, but features a few quintessential Brazilian twists (green peas, boiled eggs, and green olives).
One of the main differences between Italian risotto and Brazilian risotto is the rice that is used. Brazilians tend to prefer their rice fluffy and separated, as opposed to sticky or creamy. As a result, most recipes for risotto call for Basmati or jasmine in place of the traditional arborio rice. Basmati, in particular, is longer and has less starch, which keeps the grains from adhering to each other when cooked. The rice can be rinsed several times to eliminate even more starch.
Pilaf vs Risotto
This drier style of rice is probably more similar to what we, in the US, might call a “pilaf.” Despite the texture differences, however, the cooking methods are relatively similar overall. Both involve sautéing aromatics in fat or oil, toasting the grains of rice to release a nutty flavor and aroma, and finally cooking in a flavorful stock or broth (sometimes with wine).
In pilaf, the full amount of stock is added and the pot is covered to allow the rice to absorb all the liquid. In risotto, the liquid is added slowly, one ladle-full at a time, and some liquid is allowed to remain unabsorbed in a creamy, flavorful “sauce.”
Shrimp Risotto Substitutions
Shellfish allergy? Don’t care for shrimp? No problem! This recipe lends itself to all kinds of customization. You can just as easily substitute the protein with chicken and chicken stock, or make a vegetarian version with portobello mushrooms and vegetable stock.
Shrimp Risotto Recipe (Risotto de Camarão)
1.5 pounds medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup diced onions
½ red bell pepper, diced
½ cup fresh tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup fresh or frozen sweet peas
¼ cup chopped green olives
1.5 cups Basmati rice
2 boiled eggs, chopped
3 cups fish stock
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- Sauté the onions and bell peppers for 2 minutes or so, until they are softened. Then add in the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds (just until you can smell it).
- Add in the rice and turn the heat up to medium high. Toast the rice with the onions and garlic until it is golden and fragrant and evenly coated with oil.
- Add in the tomatoes, peas, and green olives. Cover with fish stock and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and cover.
- When the rice is nearly finished, put in your shrimp and stir. Cover the pan and cook until the shrimp are pink and tender (this only takes a few minutes).
- Remove the rice from the heat and stir in your chopped boiled eggs. Taste for salt and add more as needed. Finish with a grind of fresh black pepper.
- Garnish with fresh, chopped parsley and parmesan cheese, if you like.
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