The Key Ingredient In Crni Rižot, The Balkans' Classic Black Risotto

If you've had the chance to dine in Croatia, you have probably been curious about the famous crni rižot, or black risotto. It is, after all, a staple in Dalmatian cuisine. At first glance, it may almost seem intimidating, as it is different from most dishes you've seen before. Usually served as a small portion for a late lunch in konobas (small family restaurants), or Dalmatian taverns, crni rižot is so black that it may even turn your teeth or mouth black (via Chasing The Donkey).

Given its long coastline along the Adriatic Sea, it's no surprise that Croatian cuisine tends to highlight the abundant seafood available. From gregada, a fish and potato stew, to salata od hobotnice, or octopus salad, Croatian food highlights the delicacies found naturally around them (via JayWay Travel). Given this, we can assume they took inspiration from their surroundings to create crni rižot. With this said, what is it that makes this risotto so black?

What makes it black?

Coming from the depths of the Adriatic Sea, cuttlefish, or sometimes squid, and their ink are responsible for the beautiful black color that makes crni rižot stand out from other risottos. According to Food & Wine, each cuttlefish has a silver sac containing black ink that shoots out when the sea creature feels threatened. It's this ink that is essential for making crni rižot. While using ink from a freshly caught cuttlefish gives more flavor, cuttlefish ink can also be purchased on its own. 

While cuttlefish is necessary for the black color, small cut pieces of cuttlefish are also necessary to complete this dish. With its mild fishy flavor, cuttlefish adds the perfect textural component to complement the risotto. This dish is the ultimate definition of simplicity while being flavorfully complex. Made with only a few additional ingredients — onion, tomato concentrate, white wine, garlic, and rice, of course — the taste and color of the cuttlefish really shines in crni rižot (via Croatia Week). Can't make it over to Croatia? Try to make it at home!