How to Make the Best Risotto

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Salmon Lemon Risotto. Linda Larsen

Risotto, that classic Italian dish of rich and creamy, perfectly cooked rice, is intimidating. But it's not difficult to make. It just takes some time, patience, and some good recipes. Read through these instructions, then get out your heaviest pot, some rice and broth, and find out what all the fuss is about! For recipes, see Risotto Recipes.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 40 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Place broth in a saucepan over low heat. Adding cold broth to cooking rice will 'shock' the rice and the finished dish will be less creamy.
  1. Prepare vegetables. Finely chop or mince onions and garlic, if using. If you're adding other vegetables to the risotto at the end, prepare them now and set aside.
  2. Heat oil and butter in a heavy saucepan, with straight sides. Be sure the pan is heavy and well-balanced. I use a 4-quart pan to make eight cups of risotto. I like the extra room in the pan; it's also easier to stir vigorously if you know the food isn't going to slop over the pan sides.
  3. Add aromatics: onion, garlic, and/or shallots. These ingredients will add flavor to the oil, which will transfer the flavor to the other ingredients. Cook and stir until tender; do not let these ingredients brown.
  4. Add the rice to the pan. Some people rinse their rice first to wash off surface starch. I don't think this is necessary. The rice should be toasted in the oil before liquid is added to intensify the flavor. This also makes the rice more likely to give up its starch as it cooks, which is essential to the creaminess of the finished dish.
  1. Add wine at this point. The wine will boil and disappear very quickly. Its flavor will be easily absorbed by the rice.
  2. Now it's time to settle in and get ready for 20-25 minutes of pretty much constant stirring. Add the warm broth to the rice, about 1/2 a cup at a time, stirring as the rice cooks. It's this slow addition of liquid, along with the stirring action, that forces the rice to release its starch as it cooks.
  1. Keep going!
  2. After 20 minutes, start tasting the rice. When it is 'al dente', that is, creamy and tender, but with a tiny bit of firmness in the center, it's done. At this point you can cook it a bit longer to let more of the liquid evaporate, or if you like a soupier risotto, add a bit more broth.
  3. Stir in vegetables and heat through for just a minute or two.
  4. Add cheese and butter. Some recipes also call for adding cream. This, logically enough, makes an exceptionally creamy risotto, but some people don't think the risotto needs it. If you need extra comfort today, add it.
  5. Cover the pan and let the risotto stand, off the heat, for 5 minutes. This lets the flavors bloom and meld. Then serve your masterpiece on warmed plates to your appreciative family.

Tips:

  1. Keep stirring. Really, you can't over stir risotto. It is possible to under stir it, however, The rice will sink to the bottom of the pan if it isn't manipulated, where it may stick and burn.
  2. You can use arborio rice or long grain white rice or medium grain rice. If you're not a purist, it really doesn't matter. Use the rice best suited to your pocketbook.
  3. Keep the broth just below a simmer. You don't want to add cold broth to the hot rice. It will interrupt the cooking process and the finished dish won't be as creamy.
  1. Use really good quality broth. Homemade is best, but I think that boxed stocks and broths run a pretty close second. The broth's flavor is crucial to the success of this recipe.
  2. Now use your imagination and add your own favorite ingredients to your risotto.

What You Need:

  • Heavy saucepan
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Onions, garlic, or other aromatics
  • Rice
  • Broth
  • Parmesan cheese