How to Make Risotto

I don’t understand why risotto is considered by so many to be an up-scale, complicated dish. When I see a big bowl of creamy, cheesy grains, I think “comfort food.” That’s exactly what risotto is: warm, comforting and satisfying. It is really only a few steps removed from the Asian breakfast dish congee or even rice pudding.

And risotto is certainly not as difficult to make as cookbook writers might lead you to believe. You don’t have to stir endlessly or time things just right to make great risotto. Like any classic recipe, you can customize risotto endlessly to come up with the perfect dish to comfort you.

Risotto with Asparagus
Risotto with Asparagus Tips and Mint

Risotto is traditionally made with Arborio rice, but any medium-grain rice can be substituted. You will need 1 cup Arborio or other medium-grain rice for 2 servings; 2 cups for 4 servings. If you get tired of the rice version, try making risotto with other grains or even pasta. I’ve had great success using this method with orzo.

For every 1 cup of rice, you will need 2½ cups broth, 1 tbsp. butter or olive oil, ½ cup grated Parmesan and ½ cup wine. White wine is traditionally used, but red is acceptable, particularly if you are adding strongly flavored ingredients.

Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce to low but keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt the buter or heat the oil in a wide, deep saute pan over medium. Add some minced aromatics to saute. Onion and garlic are both traditional, but any aromatics may be added, such as shallots or mushrooms. Make your choices depending on the other flavors you are using.

Which brings us to the substance of the dish. I think risotto is best when one or two ingredients are allowed to “star”; in other words, don’t load it down with too many extras. When you add the other ingredients depends on how you’d like to cook them. Some may be added with the aromatics to brown before adding the rice and broth. Others should be added with the broth to simmer. Risotto made with Arborio rice takes about 20 minutes to cook, so time the additions accordingly. For instance, if you’re using asparagus, wait until the risotto has nearly finished cooking to add the tips, so they don’t get too mushy.

Here are some suggestions for risotto additions:

  • Add before liquid to saute: artichoke hearts, carrots, celery, chicken, endive, leeks, parsnips and turnips
  • Add with liquid to simmer: asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, clams, green beans, mussels, peas, sweet potatoes, winter squash and zucchini

Of course, these are just starting points. Please always feel free to experiment. Prepare most additions by slicing or cubing into small, bite-sized pieces that will cook quickly.

The broth is simmering and the aromatics and other ingredients are sauteing. Now add the rice. Stir it around in the fat until it is coated and the edges become translucent, 2-3 minutes.

Pour in the wine and stir until it has been absorbed by the rice. Ladle in about 1 cup broth and let the rice simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed. Note that you do not have to stir constantly; just check on it every so often and give it a good stir.

When the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, add the remaining broth ½ cup at a time, stirring more often now, until the rice is cooked through. You may not need all of the broth. Tasting the rice is the best way to determine if it is done; it will be plump and tender, with no chalky center.

Now stir in the Parmesan and some fresh herbs and lemon zest to finish the risotto. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

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7 thoughts on “How to Make Risotto

  1. […] make meals that focus on cleaning out the fridge or I revert to easy-to-make comfort food, like risotto and eggs. I also like to use the alone time to browse through my cookbooks and see what catches my […]

  2. […] Risotto is one way to use up a multitude of fresh veggies; I made a very tasty batch with summer corn and fresh tomatoes (pictured above), adding the fresh veggies just before the rice finished cooking. […]

  3. […] Emergency Dinner Guests? Pesto Vinaigrette! Posted on 10 April 2009 by Shannon Not too long ago, I blogged about the five things I always have in my fridge, freezer and pantry to ensure that I can put together a delicious meal anytime. I didn’t put pesto on that list, but I probably should have. I made a big batch of pesto last summer and froze it in ice cube trays. All throughout the winter I have been making use of that pesto whenever I need to make a quick dinner with a big flavor boost. It’s come in handy for pasta sauces, pizza, soups and risotto. […]

  4. […] with Roasted Vegetables Posted on 10 February 2010 by Shannon Dinner last night: a plain risotto. I made it with sherry and a little lemon zest, per the suggestion in The Improvisational Cook. […]

  5. The Master Recipes « Simply Cooking 16 July 2010 at 2:26 pm

    […] Risotto […]

  6. Restaurant Recipes 23 July 2010 at 12:50 am

    Thank you so much! We have a big can of rice and I needed a recipe to do something with it!

    I just bookmarked your sight and look forward to getting more from it! Do you have any recipes for restaurant recipes?

    Thanks!

  7. Audie Fechtner 31 October 2012 at 2:55 am

    Asparagus is not only tasty but it is also rich in vitamins and minerals. :

    My own webpage
    http://www.foodsupplementdigest.com/betaine-hcl/

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