Risotto is an Italian dish featuring short-grained rice that’s been cooked in meat or vegetable broth. The rice (most typically the arborio variety) soaks up the broth and softens to a creamy consistency. A small serving makes a great first course, light meal or snack; a larger serving can be a whole meal, especially if the recipe includes meat. Like many dishes served up as gourmet items, it’s really a peasant dish and makes for wonderful comfort food. It’s also quick and easy to prepare, so it’s great for a nice dinner on the run.
Recipes vary greatly, but all of them are based on cooking the rice in a particular way. Here are some basic instructions on cooking the rice:
- Soffritto. Sautee onions in a heavy skillet with butter or oil. This will create your flavor base. At this point, a recipe may instruct you to toss in some other ingredients (any which can withstand twenty minutes of cooking should do fine). Don’t brown your ingredients.
- Tostatura. The word comes from the Italian for “to toast.” Add the rice grains to your soffritto and stir continuously. This will cook each grain evenly. This process takes two to four minutes. Don’t brown the rice. Some recipes at this point call for you to add white wine and cook it in until it evaporates completely.
- Adding the broth. Add your broth one ladle at a time, stirring each one in until the rice has absorbed it before adding another. Stir frequently throughout this process. At about two-thirds of the way through, you can start adding vegetables and other ingredients to it (recipes will have more detailed instructions).
- Resting. While the rice grains are still a bit firm, take the risotto off heat and let it sit for a couple of minutes to cook together while the temperature comes down.
- Mantecatura. Some recipes skip this step, but if you finish your dish by beating some very cold butter cubes, olive oil and/or parmesan into the cooked risotto, the resulting texture and flavor will be terrific.
Tips for cooking risotto:
- For each cup of rice, you’ll need three cups of broth.
- Stirring is crucial for the final texture, but not as demanding as it sounds. The more often you prepare this dish, the better sense you’ll develop of when it’s okay to let it sit for a few minutes while you work on something else.
- The broth is where most of your flavor will come from, so make sure you use one that’s tasty. You can actually get away with a tasty cube of bullion dissolved in water, so it’s not necessary to make it from scratch or spend a lot of money, but it does need to taste good, or your dish won’t.
- Butter gives it more flavor than oil. You can combine the two to add some butter flavor while the oil prevents the butter from burning.
- Saffron with Butternut Squash – saffron-flavored arborio with butternut squash, pancetta and parmesan. This one is really rich, salty and flavorful.
- Gorgonzola-Shiitake - with garlic, chives and onion, this one’s not too heavy, but very savory and full of flavor
- Pea and Bacon - if you like peas, pancetta and cream sauce on pasta, you’ll love this
- Spinach Risotto with Roquefort – the tang of Roquefort and the intensely green flavor of spinach.
- Beet Risotto With Greens, Goat Cheese, and Walnuts – with fresh rosemary and ginger for seasoning. This one’s slightly sweet and salty, and very filling.
- Coconut Risotto with Chili-lime Shrimp – a Thai-influenced spicy dish with sweet undertones. This dish is delightfully rich and tangy!
- Risotto Cakes – turn leftover or pre-cooked risotto into delicious little cakes, served with marinara.
- Oven-baked Porcini – uses a totally different (and easier) cooking method than the traditional one outlined above
- Three Cheese Risotto – with fontina, gorgonzola and parmigiano. This makes a lightly gooey dish that’s extremely satisfying.
- Clam Risotto with Bacon and Chives – the broth is made from bottled clam juice. Really savory!
- Truffle Risotto Recipe – uses fresh black and white truffles for intense, wonderful flavor. There’s just something special about the taste of truffles!
- Butter Bean with Chard and Fried Okra – a Southern twist that makes for a rich, savory dish
- Fennel with Ricotta and Dried Chilli – a slightly spicy recipe that features the slightly sweet and spicy taste of the underused classic, fennel
- Asparagus Risotto – the crunch of asparagus makes a nice contrast with the softer texture of the rice
- Roast Pumpkin and Feta – the roasted pumpkin is deliciously sweet and nutty, and the feta is salty and savory. What’s not to love?
- Risotto with espresso and fried crispy capers – espresso-flavored risotto topped with olive oil fried capers. This one is shockingly good.
- Roasted Red Pepper With Sautéed Shrimp And Scallops – a simple but tasty recipe that complements sautéed shrimp and scallops