Is there anything better than a warm bowl of risotto? A rich, creamy bowl of perfectly cooked and flavored rice. It’s tough to beat. While it may seem like a daunting task, making risotto is quite simple, and every home cook should know how to make it! You sweat down some onions or shallots, add the rice, and then slowly cook it by adding stock. Finish with butter and cheese, and that’s all there is to it. Well, that’s the simple version. This post will dive into more details on making risotto and then give you three different variations. With the proper technique and right tools, you’ll be able to craft risotto in no time.
The Right Tools
To make risotto, you’ll need the following tools: a ladle, a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, a saucepan, and a saucier. A saucier is the perfect pan for risotto. Its curved and sloped sides allow easy stirring and make sure that nothing gets stuck in the corners. Your risotto will cook evenly and quickly. The saucepan is used to keep the stock, which cooks the rice, at a constant simmer so that your saucier’s temperature doesn’t drop. The ladle is used to transfer the stock from the saucepan to the saucier, and the wooden spoon or spatula is used to stir!
Plain risotto is composed of 6 ingredients: arborio rice, an allium of choice, wine, stock, cheese, and butter. Not including salt, pepper, olive oil, and other ingredients that you would use to enhance the flavor. The process is quite simple.
- Mince a shallot and sweat it in olive oil until soft. You don’t want any color on the shallot.
- Bring your stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Feel free to add aromatics like garlic, thyme, rosemary, or a bay leaf to add extra flavor.
- Add the arborio rice and toast it until the kernels start to turn translucent, and there is a nutty aroma.
- Add enough wine to cover the rice, and make sure the liquid is at a constant simmer. You don’t need to stir constantly, but make sure to stand by the stovetop and stir every so often.
- Once the rice has absorbed the wine, add enough stock to cover the rice. Follow the same technique as in step 4. Stir every so often, making sure the starch is released, and the rice isn’t just sitting in the same place.
- After the stock has been absorbed, add another ladle. Repeat this process until the rice is al dente. You don’t want the risotto to be mushy!
- Once the rice is perfectly cooked, take the risotto off the heat and stir in a few tablespoons of butter and a handful of finely grated Parmigiano or pecorino romano.
- Serve on a warm plate and top with more cheese and some olive oil.
A Few Things to Note
Season your risotto throughout the cooking process. There are many different levels of flavor; you have the shallot, the rice, and the stock, so you should make sure each layer is seasoned perfectly.
By keeping your liquid at a constant simmer, the rice will almost stir itself.
Risotto shouldn’t be clumpy. If you were to serve it on a plate (which is how it is commonly served in restaurants), and you were to pick up the plate and tilt or shake it, the risotto should move. The key to achieving this texture is by making sure there is still liquid before you add the butter and cheese. You can always add a splash or two or warm stock to achieve this texture.
Another key to elevating your risotto is serving it on a warm plate or bowl, which will keep the risotto warmer for a longer time. Place your oven-safe plate or bowl in a 300F oven for around 10 minutes for the best eating experience.
3 Variations for Risotto
Now that you have the proper technique for making risotto, you can add additional ingredients! The following types of risotto are perfect to have in your repertoire and can be made following the above technique!
Mushroom risotto is one of the more popular kinds of risotto out there. Start with dried mushrooms and reconstitute them in either stock or water in a saucepan. Add crushed garlic cloves and a few springs of thyme, as well. You now have mushroom stock to add to the risotto, which will add a nice mushroom flavor. If you’d like, you can also chop up the reconstituted mushrooms and fold them in before you add your butter and cheese!
While your risotto is cooking, heat a carbon steel or stainless steel pan over medium-high heat and add a variety of mushrooms; we like shiitake and oyster! Cook the mushrooms until they are nice and crispy and finish with minced shallot, garlic, fresh thyme, and butter. Once your risotto is done cooking, plate it and then top with your mixed mushrooms and finely chopped parsley.
Basil, Lemon, and Corn Risotto
Adding light flavors like lemon and basil is a great way to serve risotto in warmer months. Another way to keep this dish on the lighter side is to use a vegetable broth or chicken stock rather than a rich chicken or pork stock.
Before cooking, grill a few stalks of corn, and then once it cools, cut it off the cob. Follow the above technique, and towards the end of the cooking process, add in lemon zest, fresh lemon juice, some torn basil leaves, and your corn. Add your butter and cheese and top with freshly torn basil and more corn!
There’s something about spring vegetables (asparagus, peas, ramps, swiss chard) that pair perfectly with risotto. If using asparagus or peas, you’ll need to cook them beforehand. You can quickly boil them in your stock and then place them in an ice bath or sauté them in some butter or olive oil. Once you prepare your risotto, as usual, you can stir the cooked peas and asparagus in at the end.
If you’re lucky enough to find ramps, you can sweat those down instead of shallots in the beginning, or you can quickly grill them and top your risotto with it for a nice smokey flavor.
That’s all there is to it! Risotto is definitely an easy meal to make and should be in every home cook’s rotation. If (and that’s a big IF) you find yourself with leftover, roll your risotto into balls and then dredge them in flour, then egg, and then breadcrumbs and fry them to make arancini. Enjoy!