Risotto's creamy texture and deeply satisfying flavors ensures that it is welcome at any meal and with your own risotto recipes, your guests will think you have an Italian chef hidden away in your kitchen.
The three main ingredients of risotto are rice (of course), wine, and stock. It is the stock that cooks the rice and gives the risotto the creamy texture that makes this dish so popular. The creaminess is actually the rice starch dissolved into the stock. The only way to get this is to slowly cook the rice in hot stock. The quality of your stock will directly affect the quality and flavor of your risotto. I would suggest that you make your own stock, but if you don't have the time or inclination to do so then get the best stock you can from the market. Check the ingredients list on the stock package and choose the one with the least amount of chemicals and preservatives. Since the two main ingredients of risotto are rice and stock, you will taste the difference between good stock and poorly made stock.
Step By Step
Each step of making risotto has a specific name and order that must be followed to guarantee that your risotto recipes turn out perfectly. The steps are:
- Soffrito - melting the butter and sweating the onions.
- Riso - Adding the rice and coating it well with the melted butter.
- Vino - adding the white wine and letting it reduce to Au Sec (until it becomes dry).
- Brodo - The addition of the hot stock.
- Condimenti - the addition of the flavoring, for example mushrooms.
It is not as important to remember the names of the steps as it is to remember the correct order.
Risotto recipes call for a lot of stirring and usually take about 30 minutes to cook properly, so if you are planning to serve your risotto with your dinner, please plan accordingly and make sure your main dish and sides can be left alone while you are chained to your risotto.
- ½ ounce of butter
- ¼ onion diced fine
- ¼ cup of white wine
- ½ pound of Arborio rice
- 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (you may need more)
- ½ ounce of butter
- 2 ½ ounces of Parmesan cheese
- Salt to taste
- You will need two saucepans for any of your risotto recipes, one for the stock and one for the rice.
- Pour your stock into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
- Once your stock is simmering, put the first measurement of butter and the onions into the other saucepan and place over a low flame.
- Let the onions cook very slowly over the low flame, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent. This is the Soffrito step.
- Once the onions are translucent, add the rice to the pan and stir them until they are well-coated with the melted butter. This is the Riso step.
- Next, add the white wine and stir until the wine is almost completely absorbed. This is Au Sec (until dry) and it is the Vino step.
- Using a 4-ounce ladle, pour one ladleful of hot stock into the saucepan that has the rice. Slowly stir the rice until the stock is absorbed. This is the Brodo step.
- Repeat this step until the stock is completely added and the risotto is smooth and creamy.
- Add the second measurement of butter and the cheese. Mix well. This is the Condimenti step.
- Taste for salt and add salt as needed.
Once you get the hang of making risotto, you can start trying variations on the recipe. Just bear in mind that whatever you are adding to the risotto goes in at the condimenti step. Since the condimenti step is the very last one, you can't rely on the heat of the risotto to cook the ingredients so you will have to precook them. For example, if you want to make mushroom risotto, you will need to sauté the mushrooms in butter beforehand and add them last. You may also want to try adding:
- Seafood - sauté some shrimp or scallops and cut them into small pieces. Stir them into the risotto.
- Any cheeses that melt easily
- Saffron - A pinch of saffron steeped in a cup of warm water and added last is the recipe for Risotto Milanese
One Last Note
- Be sure to only use Arborio rice for your risotto although any medium grain rice will do in a pinch.
- When I was in culinary school, I had access to some rather expensive mushrooms and made good use of them. For one of my projects I added Morels, Chanterelle, and Porcini mushrooms that I had sautéed very slowly. I then splashed the risotto with a bit of white truffle oil. I called this Risotto Henri.
- Risotto makes a great side dish to crab cakes, lamb, duck, or can be the main course when seafood is added to it.