Why Aren’t You Making Risotto?

I love risotto. It’s especially nice during the colder months when one craves something warming and filling. But risotto is great in the summer too. It’s a perfect vehicle for all of that amazing summer produce. I make risotto regularly, once to twice a month. My wife and daughter both love it too. It’s a staple in our house.

It’s also an elegant dish that will impress guests, especially when you consider how much better homemade risotto is than the subpar stuff most restaurants pilfer.

But I don’t know anyone else that makes it regularly. That’s too bad. It’s easy to make. Granted, I’ve been making it regularly for more than a decade, but I can whip up a batch of risotto in my sleep, in 45 minutes.

It’s a versatile dish. You can throw almost any vegetable, meat, seafood, spice, or herb into it. You’re only limited by your imagination. It’s a great way to use up leftovers. Make a basic risotto and throw last night’s meat and veggies into it, and you kill two birds with one stone; you’ve made a delicious supper and made good use of leftovers.

One of the great things about Italian cooking is its simplicity, and risotto is no exception. Basic risotto consists of seven everyday ingredients: Rice, stock, wine, onions, cheese, butter, and olive oil. Except for the short grain rice, you probably have all the other ingredients on hand.

Here’s the thing that most don’t understand; risotto is an incredibly easy dish to make. I don’t know why more people aren’t making it. It takes a little time, yes, but most of that time is spent letting it simmer on the stove.

A word about that.

There’s a misunderstanding that risotto is a dish that requires one to stand in front of it and stir, stir, stir. That’s not correct; you needn’t be glued to the stove. You do need to stir risotto, but you don’t need to hover over it stirring constantly. I stir mine for about 10 seconds every couple of minutes usually just before, and just after I add a ladle of stock. That’s enough to release the starch from the rice. And that’s why you stir. Short grain rice, when cooked using the risotto method, releases its starch slowly into the broth. The friction of stirring pulls the starch off the rice and into the stock. This gives the stock a rich, creamy texture. It’s that creamy starch filled stock that makes risotto, risotto.

If you’ve had risotto when eating out, it’s likely that it’s been a sticky blob. It’s a problem. I complained about it in my Risotto is not Rice with Stuff in it post. But don’t let that discourage you from making it at home. As I said, easy-peasy.

Here’s my basic risotto recipe. Again, you’re only limited to what you put in it by your imagination. Obviously, the internet is a great resource to discover delicious risotto dishes.

1 cup arborio or other short grain “risotto” rice
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs butter
A very generous grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for the table

Heat the stock in a separate pot to a bare simmer.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat, and saute the onions until softened.
Add the rice and stir until coated with the olive oil.
Add the wine, and cook for 2 minutes until mostly evaporated.
Add 1 to 1-1/2 ladles of the simmering stock, stir until incorporated into the rice, and let it simmer (it should just barely bubble, you want a light simmer).
Stir for about 10 seconds every 2 to 3 minutes until the stock is mostly absorbed. When it is just starting to dry out, but not completely dry, add more stock and repeat.

Continue until the rice is al dente, about 25 minutes.

At this point, add the butter and cheese, and any (precooked) additions such as veggies or proteins. Taste for salt and pepper and add accordingly, then remove from the heat.

I like my risotto wet. When it’s finished and removed from the heat it will start to set up. I let it sit for a few minutes, and then add more stock until it’s almost soupy (if you run out of stock, just use warm water). It’s better too wet than too dry, don’t be afraid to add liquid.

Serve immediately.


Risotto with bacon, mushrooms and asparagus. One of my current favorites.


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