This is not your traditional Risotto. This is a traditional Italian Style Rice in the Oven or Riso al Forno. Recipe compliments of my dear mom a passionate and wonderful cook. And while you might think how does one make risotto in the oven, if it can be done, leave it up to an Italian to do it!
You can compare this rice in the oven to a "pasta al forno", only that the rice is substituted for the pasta. While this specific recipe calls for a meat sauce, you can use a marinara sauce too! In addition, people sometimes add extra meat like cut up sausage links or beef stew meat from their sauce. It's really up to you on what kind of sauce you want to use.
However, if you are not a fan of meat sauces, you can use a basic tomato marinara sauce recipe.
Tips and Tricks to the Perfect Italian Style Riso al Forno
What Kind of Rice do I use?
To make the Italian Style Rice in the Oven you’ll need a rice with a high starch content. The higher the starch content, the easier it will be to get the rice to stick together. For the perfect Riso al Forno you will need either “Italian Style” rice or arborio rice. Yes, Italian Style rice is a thing. Do not, for the love of Pete, use long grain rice! I used this rice type and brand to make this rice.
Cooking Your Risotto
Cook your rice as per the box directions. Do not overcook the rice. Drain your rice and let it sit in the colander and cool down completely. You will not be able to use the rice right away because [hot rice ] plus [raw eggs] equals rice scramble. LOL!
Once the rice has cooled down completely you can go ahead and start to combine all the ingredients. The rice will be assembled in two layers. So, you will need to reserve some meat sauce for each layer.
Look - my family, self included, love eggs. And my mom always made this Calabrese style Italian Rice in the Oven with eggs. So, to carry on the tradition I include eggs as well. But, if you are not an egg lover, skip it. It's your choice.
Let it Rest
Once your Italian Style Rice in the Oven has cooked, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Allowing it to rest will set the rice and egg so that it will be much easier to cut and scoop out. Also, you won't want to eat it straight out of the oven because it will piping hot, and burn your mouth.
This Italian Style Rice in the Oven, stores very well in an airtight container refrigerated and tastes better the day after. You can also freeze for later. Before you freeze the risotto, slice it in serving sizes. That way when you want to eat a piece, you can take it out per serving. Let the whole frozen risotto thaw out in the refrigerator overnight. If you are taking a slice out, let it thaw out on the counter.
Enough said, let’s get to the recipe details.
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Riso al Forno (Risotto)
For the Sauce
- For the tomato sauce, in a large saucepan heat up the olive oil and brown the onions and garlic.
- Toss in the veal and brown the veal. Salt and Pepper to taste. Add nutmeg and continue to brown veal. Add tomato paste and stir into coat all of the ground meet.
- Add tomato puree and bring to boil. Add oregano and basil. The sauce will cook down and get thick, if necessary add ½ cup of water as you don't want your sauce to thick if the rice needs to finish cooking. Because rice or pasta that is not fully cooked will need moisture to finish cooking.
- Bring down to a simmer and cook covered for about 20 minutes.
For the Rice
- Place 8 cups of water in a large pot, on stove top on high and bring to a boil. Place rice into boiling water and add salt to taste. Reduce heat to medium. Continue to boil rice for about 20 minutes. The rice should be slightly cooked but hard. Do not over boil. Cook Rice as per package instructions. However, you need to take the rice out when it is al dente. (do not over cook)
- Reserve about 1 cup of the rice water for the assembly. Drain rice and run under cold water to stop cooking. Place the rice in a large bowl. The rice should be cool to touch (Otherwise the egg wash will turn into scrambled eggs)
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Lightly whisk to eggs together and pour into the bowl of rice. Mix well. (this is what will make your rice stick together).
- Place about half of the sauce into the bowl with the rice. Mix well. Add half of the parmigiana cheese and half of the shredded mozzarella. Mix well
- In a medium sized tray (9 x 8), place ½ cup of water and one scoop of the sauce. Pour half of the rice mixture in the tray. Spread half of the remaining sauce over rice and spread out with a spoon towards the outer edges. Sprinkle half of the remaining parmigiana cheese and half of the remaining shredded mozzarella. Chop the hard boiled eggs, and sprinkle half on top.
- Pour the rest of the rice mixture on top. Spread the remaining sauce over rice and spread out with a spoon towards the outer edges. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese and the remaining shredded mozzarella. Top with the remaining chopped egg.
- Bake at 350°F degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. You will know when it is done when a fork is easily inserted in the rice and the rice remains intact and their are fork holes where the fork was inserted. Once the rice is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it stand for about 15 minutes so that it sets and is easy to cut and serve.