Rizogalo (Greek Rice Pudding)

Most rizogalo recipes will have the same ingredients and the same really long cooking time.  Be a rebel and follow me.  Why, you may ask?  Because the stuff tastes amazing, that’s why.

20190207_211734(All links open a new page, so you won’t lose your spot when you look around!  Get information on gardening and cultural traditions, recipes, stories, and more!)

Like many classic village recipes, simplicity is often the key to the best of foods.  Rizogalo is made with only a few common ingredients that are transformed into a sweet and creamy treat that smells like home and tastes like love.  Pity the Greek child that has never tasted it.  Pity you if you haven’t, either!

20190207_211806The problem is that it often takes a long time, up to an hour and a half, to get those ingredients cooked down to that creamy texture.  Notice how little rice there is in the ingredient list and how much milk there is?  If you’ve ever cooked rice it should be obvious to you that you usually would not use such a ridiculous amount of liquid and that the rice won’t absorb it all.  That’s because it isn’t supposed to.  The time is needed to cook the milk down until it is condensed to creamy wonderfulness.  All it takes is one little change, and that time is reduced to 30-40 minutes.

20190207_211841The trick is to ditch the pot.  No, not that “pot”, the cooking pot.  Use a pan instead.  Pots are deeper and have a smaller surface area for the water in the milk to evaporate away.  Pans are wider and shallower, and expose a much higher surface area of liquid.  Problem solved.  Dessert is served.  I prefer the dessert.

Rizogalo (Greek Rice Pudding) Recipe

Some rizogalo recipes call for adding egg yolks or even beaten egg whites toward the end of the cooking.  This is an eggless version.  Don’t fall for recipes that use flour or cornstarch for thickening, as it turns out more pasty than creamy.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. white rice, any kind except quick-cooking converted rice
  • 1 c. water
  • 4 c. milk
  • 1/4-1/3 sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Ground cinnamon for serving

Directions

In a wide pan put the water and rice.  Put the pan on the stove, cover, and turn the heat to high.  Once the water gets to near boiling, turn the heat down to medium and cook until almost completely absorbed.  This should take only a few minutes.

Remove the lid and add the milk, sugar, and salt.  Use the amount of sugar that suits the kind of sweetness you like, but you may want to start with the lower amount since you could add more later if desired.  Stir the contents to completely combine and continue to cook on medium heat.

Stir frequently, but not constantly.  A flat edge, paddle type of spatula is best, rather than a spoon.  Over stirring will cause moisture to evaporate too quickly before the rice will soften.  Under stirring may lead to scorching of the milk.  A good rhythm is to stir, wait about 30 seconds to a minute, then stir again.  At the beginning the milk may begin to foam up to the point of flowing over the edge.  If that occurs remove the pan from the burner for a moment to allow the foam to settle, stir, then return to heat.  Before long, the milk will thicken and will no longer foam up this much.

Continue to cook like this for 15-20 minutes, then begin to stir more frequently.  Soon the milk will become condensed to the point that when you drag a spoon or spatula along the bottom of the pan, a path in the pudding will remain for a few moments.  At this point, reduce the heat to low and stir continuously to avoid scorching.

Due to differences in pan dimensions and stovetop heat, the rice may not have softened as much as it should have before the moisture cooked off.  If this is the case, add 1/2 cup of water and return to the heat.  Continue to cook, adding more water as needed in 1/2 cup increments until the rice is very tender and the pudding re-thickened.

Remove from the heat, add the vanilla extract and stir it in, and adjust the sweetness if desired (you could add a drizzle of honey instead of sugar!).  Cover the pan and allow the pudding to rest.  The pudding will thicken further as it cools, but if it becomes too thick for your taste you could drizzle in a little milk to adjust it.  You can serve the rizogalo warm, room temp, or cold.  Sprinkle cinnamon on top before serving.  Enjoy!

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