There are certain foods which bring us back to our childhoods instantaneously, and rizogalo (rice pudding) is one of them. Coming home from school we were often greeted with a still slightly warm, soup bowl full of the stuff, sprinkled generously with cinnamon. We would sit in front of the television, with our mother by our side, watching a bit of after-school specials before starting our homework or going out to play with our neighbourhood friends. Now that we are older, and have made this for our own families, we can appreciate that our mother likely benefited from the almost meditative act of making rizogalo, enjoying the last bit of quiet before everyone returned home, and before she went off to work in the evening. Making rizogalo is not complicated, but it does ask that you stand by the stove, stirring quite constantly. Not too much thinking required, just a steady, rhythmic, and repetitive circular movement. A perfect opportunity to free your mind and focus, zen-like, on being in the moment. An also perfect opportunity to, for example, tell your husband to find his own socks, since you can’t possibly leave the stove.
Rizogalo is named after its two key ingredients, rizi meaning rice and gala meaning milk, and it is in a class by itself (which is why even calling it “rice pudding” feels wrong). If you have only ever had xeno (that is, not Greek) rice puddings, you are in for a treat. What you have here is a recipe for a dish which is custard-like, incredibly creamy and velvety, and only slightly sweet. It is like a hug in a bowl, and can be enjoyed as a dessert, a snack, or even breakfast.
In the ingredient list you will see that the recipe does not specify what type of milk to use, and that’s because it is really up to you. Our parents generally use 2% lactose-free milk, for those of us who are enzyme-challenged, but you can just as easily make rizogalo with whole milk, full of lactose milk, or even an almond or soy milk if you want to go the vegan route. The taste and texture will differ depending upon which milk you use, but that can be fantastic. Variety, they say, is the spice of life (although our folks would argue that oregano is actually the spice of life…but we digress).
Speaking of variety, some people (not us) like to add a few extras to their rizogalo, like grated lemon or orange peel, nuts or raisins. If you want to experiment, go ahead! Our guess is that you would probably add these
unnecessary extra ingredients when you add the milk.
The sugar amount called for in this recipe will give you a rizogalo which is not overly sweet. You can, of course, adjust the sugar amount to your liking although we recommend that you start with the quantity we suggest, take a taste, and adjust from there.
This is a recipe which is simple, but still needs your attention. We don’t know if it’s the brand of rice, the mineral content of the water, or the altitudinal pressure which is a factor, but to be honest, this recipe has given us a bit of grief. We have found ourselves occasionally needing to add to the volume of water called for in this recipe. For some reason, the original quantity of water listed below is often perfect, but other times it is insufficient, and the rice risks sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stick happens. Our advice is to keep an eye on your pot throughout the cooking process and if you find that you are still a few moments away from adding the milk but your rice appears to have soaked in all the water, just add more water. About 1/4 cup more water should do it.
Rizogalo is delicious when eaten quite warm, at room temperature, or even cold, straight from the fridge. If you do make it a day ahead or have leftovers, cover the bowls with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator. To warm it up before eating, simply heat it in the microwave. Keep in mind that as rizogalo sits, it has a tendency to thicken. If you find that your rizogalo is too thick before it comes time to enjoy it, simply stir in some warmed milk, enough to reach your desired consistency.
Mia Kouppa: Rizogalo/Rice Pudding
- 3 1/4 cups water
- 3/4 cup arborio rice
- 2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- ground cinnamon
- Rinse your rice. Bring water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan, then add rice. Return to a boil and then reduce heat to medium high. Stir occasionally.
- Cook for 15 minutes.
- Add milk and sugar to pot. Adjust heat so that mixture is at a low boil. Stir constantly to ensure that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Continue cooking; after 10 minutes, check the rice for doneness. It should be soft and not firm to the bite. Once the rice has achieved this state, remove it from the heat and let it sit, in the pot, for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes have passed, stir thoroughly and then ladle the rizogalo into individual serving bowls. Let cool.
- Once cooled, sprinkle on some ground cinnamon, if desired. Enjoy immediately, or let cool completely, cover, and store in refrigerator.