How To Make Perfect Risotto: A Tutorial With Photos

  • 01 of 09

    Risotto: Saute Onion in Hot Butter and Oil

    Risotto with Parmesan and mushrooms
    Risotto with Parmesan and mushrooms. Adventure_Photo / Getty Images

    Risotto is a traditional Italian rice dish made from a short-grained, starchy variety of rice called arborio rice. The technique for making it is called the risotto method, which involves stirring small amounts of hot stock or broth into the rice a little at a time, allowing the liquid to be absorbed as you go.

    While the rice cooks, it releases its starch, which is essential to giving the risotto a rich, creamy consistency. The more starch in your rice, the creamier the risotto.

    Low and Slow

    This...MORE is why cooking your rice slowly is essential; cooking risotto low and slow gives super-starchy arborio rice the time it needs to release the starch and achieve the sought-after creaminess.

    Like pasta, risotto is cooked al dente, which means that it should be slightly firm to the bite—a degree of doneness that might seem underdone in ordinary white rice. It shouldn't be crunchy though.

    4 Cups Hot Stock to 1 Cup Rice

    For each cup of uncooked rice, you'll need about 4 cups of hot chicken stock. Keep the stock hot in a small saucepan at a low simmer over a separate burner from the one you'll be using to cook the risotto. You'll also need a small ladle that holds 6 ounces or so for adding the hot stock.

    Tip: Use a wooden spoon for stirring the risotto—it's less likely than a metal spoon to break the grains of rice.

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  • 02 of 09

    Sauté Onion; Add Uncooked Rice

    Add uncooked rice
    Add uncooked rice. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    To begin, heat 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan or a straight-sided sauté pan, then add about half a cup of finely chopped onion. Cook on medium-low until the onion is translucent.

    Add Rice

    Add about 1 cup of uncooked arborio rice and stir briskly, coating the rice grains with the hot butter and oil.

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  • 03 of 09

    Briefly Sauté the Rice

    Sauté the rice until nutty
    Sauté the rice until nutty. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Sauté the rice for a minute or two, until there's a slightly nutty aroma. The rice shouldn't look brown or toasted though.

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  • 04 of 09

    Add Wine and Cook Until It's Absorbed

    Add wine and stir
    Add wine and stir. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Add about 1/2 cup of dry white wine to the rice, and stir until it is fully absorbed. Take your time; it needs to be fully absorbed. The wine livens up the flavors of the risotto. Any decent dry white table wine will do. If you have some dry white vermouth handy, that would be a good choice.

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  • 05 of 09

    Add a Ladle of Hot Stock

    Add hot stock and stir
    Add hot stock and stir. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    To the rice, add a ladle of hot chicken stock from the pan of stock that you're keeping hot on the stovetop; stir until the liquid, once again, is absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and repeat the stirring.

    Stir Constantly to Prevent Scorching

    It's important to stir constantly, especially as the liquid gets absorbed. This prevents scorching. Add the second ladle of stock as soon as the rice is almost dry.

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  • 06 of 09

    Continue Adding Hot Stock and Stirring

    More hot stock; more stirring
    More hot stock; more stirring. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Continue adding more ladles of hot stock and stirring the rice while the liquid gets absorbed. You'll see your risotto take on a creamy consistency as the rice cooks and begins to release its plentiful natural starches. That's the magic of arborio rice.

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  • 07 of 09

    Cook for 20 to 30 Minutes

    Cook until al dente
    Cook until al dente. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Total cooking time will be 20 to 30 minutes. The risotto is done when it's al dente, meaning that the grains are tender but still firm to the bite, without being crunchy.

    If Rice is Still Crunchy, Add Hot Water

    Remember, a cup of uncooked arborio rice should absorb 3-4 cups of stock. If for some reason, you've added 4 cups of stock and the risotto still isn't done, you can finish the cooking using hot water instead of stock. Just add the water as you did with the stock, a ladle at a...MORE time, stirring while it's absorbed. (Humidity and altitude can play a role in your rice needing a little more time.)

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  • 08 of 09

    Finish with Butter and Parmesan

    Butter and Parmesan to finish
    Butter and Parmesan to finish. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Stir in another 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and about ¼ cup of freshly grated Parmesan. You can also stir in some finely chopped Italian parsley. Adjust the seasoning with kosher salt.

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  • 09 of 09

    Serve Risotto Right Away

    Serve immediately
    Serve immediately. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Risotto turns sticky and gluey if it's held too long in the pan or fridge, so it should be served immediately. A properly cooked risotto should form a soft, creamy mound on a dinner plate.

    More Recipes

    You can easily turn this basic recipe into any of the following delicious variations that are palate pleasers for both adults and children:

    Bonus: Rice is Gluten-Free. For anyone who must avoid gluten, rice and, thus, risotto is gluten-free,...MORE unless there has been cross contact with grains that do contain gluten. Because rice is gluten-free, those with celiac disease tend to eat a lot of it. But experts warn not to go overboard because rice also contains naturally occurring arsenic, which can be a problem. Eating rice dishes like risotto as part of a well-balanced diet with other gluten-free grains and reading more about the rice-arsenic connection are good approaches.