Torta di Riso (Rice Pudding)

011My mother was a finicky eater as a child — something she never really out grew. As an adult, her petite frame of barely five feet tall and one hundred pounds soaking wet, existed on a short list of favorite foods. Her top three comfort foods were pasta, bread and anything sweet.

My grandmother made this custardy rice pudding, fortified with eggs and whole milk (mom disliked eggs and refused to drink milk) for my mother’s breakfast. It was her favorite.

This is not your average rice pudding. Most rice puddings are cooked on top of the stove and eaten cold. Torta di riso begins with a layer of arborio rice (the starchy grain that makes luscious risotto), and is topped with a creamy, citrus-flavored custard, that smells amazing, and then baked in the oven.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember exactly how my grandmother made this dish. This recipe is slightly adapted from cookbook author, Carol Field (The Italian Baker). To me, it tastes and smells like the rice pudding my grandmother made for my mother all those years ago.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup Italian Arborio rice
  • 7 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 heaping tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 heaping tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
  1. Butter an 8-inch baking dish, 2-inches deep (I used a deep-dish pie pan).
  2. In a saucepan, bring the water and rice to a low boil and then immediately lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, drain and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until very pale, about 6-7 minutes.
  4. Add the orange juice, orange and lemon zests, vanilla and salt and mix well. Add the milk and mix thoroughly.
  5. Evenly spread the cooled rice in the bottom of the greased baking dish. Gently pour the
    creamy custard mixture over the rice.
  6. Bake in a 350* oven 50-60 minutes. The top should be a deep golden brown and the custard set (not jiggly). When in doubt, use the knife test; insert a thin-bladed knife into the center of the pan-when it comes out clean, it’s done.
  7. To serve, cut into squares (or wedges if using pie pan) and enjoy warm.

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