Mushroom risotto is a hearty dish with a creamy consistency and savory taste. This recipe makes a big batch, perfect for sharing as an entree or side dish. The process involves stirring the grains continuously and simmering until tender.
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Making risotto is pretty straightforward, but the cooking process is different from most rice-based meals that you simply cover and steam. Risotto requires attention and patience. Continuously stirring the grains keeps them separated and suspended in a creamy sauce. This allows the rice to absorb the flavorful stock, become tender, and release its starches.
Unlike my classic risotto recipe, I add sauteed mushrooms to give a boost of savory umami flavor. I use two types, brown and oyster, to add a variety of textures and depth. Combined with Parmesan cheese, this dish makes for irresistible spoonfuls. Serve as an appetizer or side dish with seafood, poultry, or steak, and of course, a glass of wine.
Each variety provides a different texture and flavor, and the combination of fresh and dried mushrooms add dimension to each bite. I recommend using brown mushrooms for their chewy texture and ability to absorb moisture yet still hold their shape.
I use dried mushrooms like porcini or oyster. You need to rehydrate them in hot water for a few minutes before using them to soften the texture. Their flavor and aroma are concentrated, giving more robust umami notes due to the natural nucleotides.
Saute the mushrooms first
Mushrooms contain a lot of water. That’s why they lose their volume and shrink during cooking. I like some characteristic chunks in the dish, so I slice the fresh mushrooms into ¼-inch thick pieces so that they cook quickly but still retain their shape.
Saute them both in olive oil to evaporate the released moisture. The process only takes a few minutes to cook them and creates new flavors on their surface.
Short grain Italian arborio rice is the ideal choice to use for risotto. The oval shape and high starch level create a creamy consistency. The consistent stirring ensures that the grains stay suspended in the liquid instead of clumping together. You can use grains like barley and farro with this method, but other rice types like sticky Japanese grains work well.
Saute the vegetables and rice
Saute the onions, minced garlic, and arborio rice before adding in the vegetable stock. This process mellows the sulfur compounds in the alliums, making them savory and the onions slightly sweet as they caramelize in the pan.
Lightly browning the rice in the hot oil adds more flavor to the surface. It also coats the grains with fat, which slows the release of the starches to prevent sticking. This works well because it takes about 30 minutes for the rice to become al dente.
Deglaze with white wine
Add a dry white wine like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot grigio to the sauteed rice. The liquid helps to dissolve any tasty browned bits in the pan. The alcohol evaporates quickly, leaving hints of acidity to brighten the dish. A nice bonus is you’ll have plenty left over to enjoy with your meal.
Slowly add the stock
The key to soft grains with a porridge-like consistency is gradually adding the vegetable stock a ½ cup at a time and stirring constantly. This ensures that the hard grains slowly absorb the liquid into the center and keeps them separated.
Always add warm stock. It speeds up the swelling process and prevents the dish from cooling down. Because the dish cooks on the stovetop with no liquid, a large amount of liquid is needed compared to the steaming method, about 4 cups stock to 1 cup of arborio rice.
Add more flavor
Once the risotto is done cooking, stir in the sauteed mushrooms. Then add some aged parmesan cheese for its delicious nutty taste and gooey pull. To finish, garnish with fresh chives to add just a hint of mild onion flavor.
What to serve this with
Intensifying the umami flavor
Mushrooms naturally have a savory, meat-like taste, characterized as umami. To enhance this experience, I use fresh and dried mushrooms. Fresh contains glutamates, an amino acid, which is weak in umani. However, when combined with nucleotide containing foods like dried fungi, which have inosinate and guanylate, the umami perception is intensified up to 30 times. I use a smaller amount of dried mushrooms because the taste is concentrated and I don’t want it to overpower the dish.
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- 8 cups vegetable stock, or broth
- dried porcini mushrooms, or oyster mushrooms
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 8 ounces brown mushrooms, washed, dried, ¼-inch thick slices
- 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
- ¾ cup parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- In a large pot, add the vegetable stock and heat over medium-low until warmed to about 120 to 130ºF (49 to 54ºC), about 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, soak the dried mushrooms covered in hot water until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain and then roughly chop.
- Heat a separate dutch oven or large saute pan with high sides over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, once hot add the chopped dried mushrooms and sliced brown mushrooms. Saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add ½ teaspoon salt, stir and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Heat the pan over medium heat and 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 evaporates, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the warm stock, ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently. Add more once most of the liquid gets absorbed. Continue to add the stock in ½ cup additions, stirring continuously 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.
- Add the mushrooms to the pan. Stir and cook until warm, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Season to taste.
- Immediately serve garnished with parmesan cheese and chives.
- Recipe Yield: 7 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.
- Make it vegetarian: Look for vegetarian parmesan that does not contain animal rennet, instead microbial/vegetarian rennet.
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