How does risotto differ from a plain bowl of rice? Let us count the ways. We begin with a special variety of rice (Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano) with a starchy outer layer that is especially adept at absorbing sauces. The rice also releases some of its starch into the cooking liquid, giving the dish a velvety texture. The gradual addition of broth as the rice cooks, plus plenty of butter and cheese, dial up risotto's lusciousness.