11/04/2011 11:22 am ET | Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Cook Risotto

Making risotto isn't difficult, but it takes patience and quality ingredients, says chef Joseph DiPerri of The Culinary Institute of America. He begins by adding olive oil to a pan and sweating some chopped onions for flavor. Once the onions are transluscent, he adds Italian short-grain rice (carnaroli, in this case, although arborio is also commonly used) and toasts it in the oil to give it a nutty flavor. Next, he adds enough chicken stock to cover the rice (the approximate ratio is 3 cups of stock for every 1 cup of rice) and begins stirring. Because this type of rice is full of starch, the stirring and liquid create a creamy texture. As the rice absorbs the stock, he adds more, slowing down once he tastes the rice and finds it's nearly done. As a finishing step, he adds butter and parmesan cheese to give it extra richness. Serve your risotto quickly, because as it cools, it tightens up and looses some of its velvety texture.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Joe DiPerri from the Culinary Institute of America, and today I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to make risotto.

Risotto is an Italian short grain rice dish that is creamy in texture, and it's made with arborio or carnaroli rice. To begin the rice we're going to start by adding a little bit of olive oil to our pot. We'll let that oil heat up nicely, and our first step is going to be to sweat some onions. The onions will give our rice a nice flavor. We don't want them to brown, we just want them to turn translucent. Typically if we have one cup of rice, we add three cups of chicken stock or chicken broth.

You can see that the onions are starting to turn nice and translucent. We really don't want them to brown. We're going to add our rice. This variety of rice is called carnaroli, which is the best of the short grain rice varieties; it has the largest grain, and the most starch per grain. This is very important because we want the rice to be creamy as far as our end result is concerned. What we're going is toasting the kernels slightly, and we do this to give it a nice nutty flavor. This is always done prior to the addition of the stock.

The rice should probably take us approximately eighteen to twenty-two minutes. It's extremely important to have very good flavored stock, because of course it is the basis of our dish. I'm going to add enough stock to just cover the rice, and then we're going to start the simmering process, and during that process we want to stir. Stirring risotto is important for the agitation of the rice so we end up with a creamy end result. I'm waiting for the rice to absorb the first amount of stock, before I add the second increment. When it looks like the greater majority of the stock is done, then you're ready to add the next increment of stock.

I've added enough stock again to cover the rice; now we're going to allow the stock to come back to a simmer, and we're going to start the cooking process all over again. The first increment of stock absorbs the quickest, and the last two increments absorb the slowest.

As you can see, the second increment of stock has been absorbed. It is very important to taste the rice at this time to see how done it is, so we can determine how much more liquid we need to add so that we make the rice nice and tender. This rice is very close to being done. The amount of stock I'm going to put in now is just one ladle at a time until we get to the doneness we're looking for.

As for the type of garnishes that can be used for risotto, the sky's the limit as far as what you want to put in. In the spring season you can use asparagus and peas, or fresh peas with lemon zest and thyme is another great combination. In the fall time, wild mushrooms and gorgonzola can be used as a garnish. Today's rice is just going to be simple, with some parmesan cheese and whole butter.

Our rice now is fully cooked. You can see it it has a nice creamy consistency. Now the finishing ingredients are going to be whole butter, grated parmesan cheese, a tiny bit of salt, and a tiny bit of black pepper. We work this into the rice off the heat, and you see the end result we're getting now - here's the consistency we are looking for. Our rice is ready to be placed on the platter. Remember, do it quickly because you don't want it to tighten up, you want it to remain creamy.

Our risotto is finished.