If there's one dish that really forces you to slow down while you cook -- and be present with what you're doing -- it's risotto. If you've heard anything about risotto, it's most likely that you need to stir the pot for 30 minutes straight. While this is a bit of an exaggeration, risotto does require attention -- which is why it's a great dish to slow down with. And the fact that it produces a bowl of comforting goodness is an added bonus.
There's nothing hard or stressful about risotto. Even though it shows up on the menus of many nice Italian restaurants, it couldn't be easier to make. And the better you get at it, the less time it takes to make (just one more incentive to become familiar with this dish). Another incentive is that once you have the basic recipe down, you'll be equipped to make over hundreds of different kinds of risotto. You could literally eat a new risotto dish every day for the rest of your life.
This is how it's done.
First, heat the stock. The stock is what coaxes the starches out of the rice; and the starch is responsible for making that amazing risotto sauce. You want to make sure you're using a flavorful broth -- preferably homemade -- and one that's kept at a warmed.
Next, prepare your additions. Even if you think you'll have time to grate cheese or blanche broccoli while your risotto is cooking, we recommend just getting it all done before you begin. You might have time to do those things as you're stirring the risotto, but you might not. And, there's no reason to bring stress into risotto making by not being prepared.
Make a sofrito. A sofrito is just a flavor base. It can be as simple as cooking diced onions in butter until translucent, or more complicated with added spices. The sofrito is the base flavor for your risotto, so don't rush this step. Allow it to cook all the way.
Toast the rice. This may be our favorite part. Add the risotto rice to the sofrito mixture, stir it so that all the grains of rice are coated with butter. Cook the rice, stirring a little, until it's translucent around the edges but still opaque in the center. Most recipes will tell you to cook it until it smells like toasted rice, but we've found that not all of us know what that smells like.
Add wine to deglaze the pan. While the pan doesn't really need to be deglazed, adding a bit of white wine will always make things better. It adds another level of flavors that will help make your risotto truly excellent. Let the wine simmer until it all evaporates. We also like to take this time to pour ourselves a glass.
One ladle at a time, add the stock. This is the part that makes some people feel impatient. Don't. Just roll with it because this is also the part where risotto goes from being just grains of rice to something creamy and better. Add one ladle of roughly half a cup of hot stock into the risotto until it almost all evaporates, stirring until that happens. If your pan is hot enough, it should take no more than two minutes per ladle. Begin tasting your risotto after about 10-12 minutes. The risotto is done when the rice is creamy, but still slightly al dente.
Once you've reached the desired texture, add in the final additions. On top of your vegetables or meat, you should always add butter and cheese. Trust us, it makes a huge difference. Risotto is not the place to skimp on butter. Stir it all together, and serve.
Congratulations, you've just mastered risotto, and we bet you don't feel one bit stressed.
Check out these other risotto recipes.
This is the tried and true basic recipe for the classic northern Italian dish of risotto. It uses starchy arborio rice, flavorful stock, white wine and Parmesan cheese. Treat this recipe as your starting point. You can add any mix-ins or toppings you like. Get some ideas from the following slides. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/basic-risotto_n_1062364.html" target="_hplink">Basic Risotto</a> recipe</strong>
What makes this risotto green? Why spinach of course. Wilt a bag of spinach in the microwave or blanch it in boiling water. Then just add it to the risotto once the rice is cooked. It's a simple way to add color, flavor and nutrition to your basic risotto. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/green-risotto_n_1062365.html" target="_hplink">Green Risotto</a> recipe</strong>
Beet Risotto With Lemon Mascarpone
Beets add color and crunch to this risotto recipe. The beets are grated and added to the risotto near the end of cooking. Adding them in raw maintains their nutritional value and texture. Top with a mixture of lemon zest and mascarpone cheese to add a creamy, cooling sensation. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/beet-risotto-with-lemon-m_n_1057596.html" target="_hplink">Beet Risotto with Lemon Mascarpone</a> recipe</strong>
Creamy Seafood Risotto
Enjoy this luxurious risotto for a special dinner. Switch out the usual chicken broth for clam juice to get a true flavor of the sea. A pinch of saffron adds a pretty yellow hue. Add sauteed shrimp and crabmeat to the risotto once it's finished cooking. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/creamy-seafood-risotto_n_1058354.html" target="_hplink">Creamy Seafood Risotto</a> recipe</strong>
Pear Risotto With Prosciutto
Pear and prosciutto? You would think this pairing doesn't work, but it's actually quite a wonderful sweet and salty match. Add the chopped prosciutto and diced pear when ready to saute the rice. Then when serving, top with additional fried prosciutto and fried sage. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/pear-risotto-with-prosciu_n_1049638.html" target="_hplink">Pear Risotto with Prosciutto</a> recipe</strong>
Shrimp And Pea Risotto
Use seafood stock or clam juice in this shrimp risotto recipe. A little bit of saffron adds a golden hue. Add chopped shrimp and frozen peas near the end of cooking but continue to simmer until the shrimp is cooked through. Stir in chopped preserved lemon and lemon juice to add some bright, tangy flavor. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/shrimp--pea-risotto_n_1062368.html" target="_hplink">Shrimp and Pea Risotto</a> recipe</strong>
Fennel And Sausage Risotto
Meat lovers will appreciate this risotto, which makes a delicious dinner all on its own. Once you make the basic risotto (with a little saffron added for color), stir in sauteed sliced fennel and crumbled sweet Italian sausage. And don't forget some Parmesan and butter for even more creaminess. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/fennel-and-sausage-risott_n_1058384.html" target="_hplink">Fennel and Sausage Risotto </a>recipe</strong>
Leek And Pancetta Risotto
Instead of yellow onions, this risotto recipes uses chopped leeks as a base for a sweeter onion flavor. You could also try red onions or Vidalia onions. Serve the risotto with shredded Parmesan cheese and crispy pancetta. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/leek--pancetta-risotto_n_1062366.html" target="_hplink">Leek and Pancetta Risotto</a> recipe</strong>
Red Wine Risotto
For a heartier flavor, this risotto recipe uses beef broth, red wine and a bit of tomato paste. In northern Italy they serve this type of risotto as a first course. Any red wine that's suitable to drink would work in this recipe. But to keep it traditional, use Barbera or Barbaresco. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/red-wine-risotto_n_1061813.html" target="_hplink">Red Wine Risotto</a> recipe</strong>
Wild Mushroom And Red Wine Risotto
Mushrooms add lots of flavor to this risotto, which also has a bit of red wine. Saute a pound of mixed wild mushrooms in butter and add them to the risotto just before serving. A grating of Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of chopped parsley are all the finishing touches the dish needs. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/wild-mushroom-and-red-win_n_1058799.html" target="_hplink">Wild Mushroom and Red Wine Risotto</a> recipe</strong>
Winter Squash Risotto
If you're craving a real wintery risotto, this is the recipe. Shiitake mushrooms and chopped butternut squash are sauteed with the shallots just before the rice is added. Saffron lends a pretty hue to the dish. Feel free to use any winter squash in the recipe. And instead of white wine, try using vermouth, which will lend an herbal flavor. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/winter-squash-risotto_n_1056564.html" target="_hplink">Winter Squash Risotto</a> recipe</strong>
WATCH: Squash And Vanilla Risotto
Giada makes her version of the classic northern Italian dish with a unique ingredient. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/butternut-squash-and-vanilla-risotto-recipe/index.html" target="_hplink">Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto</a> recipe</strong>
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