Learn how to make risotto and master this simple cooking technique. Sauteing the aromatics and rice first adds the base layer of flavor. Then gradually adding in the liquid and continuously stirring ensures separate grains and creamy texture.
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If there’s one dish you should never rush through, it’s a big pot of risotto. The recipe consists of common pantry ingredients that together transform into a customizable gourmet meal. The key to success is time and attention. However, I’ll show you a few more techniques to make this classic comfort food.
To start, saute the aromatics and even the rice to deepen the flavors of the dish. White wine adds a hint of oaky notes and bright acidity to the starches. Gradually stirring in warm stock ensures the liquids fully absorb naturally, creating a thickened texture without any flour. This recipe engages all of your senses and gives you a chance to slow down, grab a glass of vino, and enjoy the process.
What is risotto?
Risotto is a traditional northern Italian dish made from arborio rice. The name comes from the cooking technique. In that, you continuously stir the grains (rice, barley, farro). The process involves gradually adding warm stock or broth like vegetable, chicken, fish, or beef to the grains, and over time, the liquid absorbs. The natural starches in the rice swell and thicken, creating a creamy consistency.
You enhance the dish’s flavor with onions, garlic, olive oil, white wine, and aged hard grating cheese like Parmesan or pecorino romano. Other ingredients can be sauteed and added to customize the meal, like bacon, mushrooms, peas, or
A traditional risotto uses Italian arborio rice. It’s a short-grain variety that’s high in starch content and yields a creamy texture. It contains about 19 to 21% amylose, which generates a softer and stickier consistency instead of fluffy and dry like long-grain white rice. Just be sure not to rinse off those starches with water like you would for cooking long-grain rice.
The oval shape and extra starches provide a creamy, pudding-like consistency when cooked on the stovetop. The characteristic, al dente texture of the softened grains has some chew and stays separate when suspended in the thickened stock or broth.
Warm the stock
Vegetable stock or broth infuses extra flavor into each grain compared to just using water. The liquid needs time to heat before adding to the rice. The increased temperature allows for quicker absorption and lowers cooking time to about 30 minutes. The heat also helps to maintain a simmer, allowing the rice to continue to tenderize and starches to swell.
Saute the aromatics
Chopped onions and garlic add a classic flavor base to risotto. The onions sweat and caramelize as moisture is driven off the surface, which adds a hint of sweetness. The sulfurous compounds in the onions and garlic soften with the heat and deliver rich, savory glutamates to the dish.
Saute the rice
Saute the rice first in olive oil before adding the stock. The oil creates a thin lipid protective layer, which prevents the immediate release of the starches. Without the oil layer, the grains would rapidly stick together and clump. The brief exposure to dry heat also toasts the grains, adding a nutty taste.
Use a dry white wine like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot grigio. The unique flavors developed during fermentation for each variety infuses into the dish. I prefer the chardonnay for its light oaky, and buttery notes. The natural acidity from tartaric and malic acid in the grapes enhances the other ingredients’ sweet and savory notes.
The wine also helps to deglaze any stuck food bits in the pan. You don’t want the dish to taste boozy, so simmer until the alcohol evaporates.
Gradually add in the liquid
Making risotto is different from other ways of cooking rice. Risotto cooks without a cover, so instead of steaming, it simmers until the liquid fully absorbs and the rice is al dente. This requires a lot more stock since the steam evaporates instead of condensing under the lid.
A steady simmer ensures that the grains will soften over time. I only add ½ cup of stock at a time. This amount makes it easier to observe the liquid absorption and watch the texture change.
Stir, stir, stir!
This recipe requires patience and careful attention. It’s crucial to stir the pot continuously to prevent the grains from sticking together. The agitation also encourages the starches to release from the rice’s surface while keeping them separate.
To enhance the flavor
Once the rice finishes cooking, stir in grated Parmesan cheese, salt, and black pepper. The dry-aged cheese adds a wonderful nuttiness to the dish and extra gooey creaminess. Garnish with chopped parsley on top, but thin pieces of basil or fresh herbs would add a nice touch right before serving.
What to serve this with
Serve risotto right away to enjoy the rich, pudding-like consistency. As the starches cool down, they get thicker as they set into a more rigid gel. Plus, more moisture is absorbed by the rice as it sits. Just add a little bit more warm stock and stir if needed to loosen the texture if not eating right away.
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How to Make Risotto
- 8 cups vegetable stock, or broth
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup yellow onions, ¼-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 cups arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot grigio
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more for garnish
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- In a large pot add the vegetable stock and heat over medium-low heat until warmed to about 120 to 130ºF (49 to 54ºC), about 10 minutes.
- Heat a separate dutch oven or large saute pan with high sides over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, once hot add the onions and garlic. Cook until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add the rice, stir and cook until the grains are coated with oil and lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.
- Add the wine to the pan, stir until the liquid has evaporated, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the warm stock, ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently. Add more stock once most of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue to add the stock in ½ cup additions, stirring continuously for the liquid to be absorbed, and until the rice is tender yet slightly chewy, about 25 to 30 minutes. The final result should be loose, separate grains that are creamy and suspended in the stock, with pudding or oatmeal-like consistency. Not all of the stock may be used.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, salt, and black pepper. Season to taste.
- Immediately serve garnished with parmesan cheese and parsley.
- Recipe Yield: 6 cups
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Reheating: If not serving right away the rice will continue to absorb the liquid and thicken further. Add more warm stock as needed right before serving to loosen the consistency. Warm over medium heat, stir and warm until hot.
- Make it vegetarian: Look for vegetarian parmesan that does not contain animal rennet, instead microbial/vegetarian rennet.
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