Get ready for some stirring. The real trick for how to make risotto is all about constantly stirring things around. As long as you have the time to dedicate to standing in front of the stove with little distraction, it is a simple recipe. So get out a nice stirring spoon or spatula and try your hand at risotto.
For a more hands-off rice recipe, take a look at my rice cooker Mexican rice.
The simplest of risottos are just stock and rice. For this recipe, I embellish a bit more than that, but not by much. With just seven total ingredients, you wouldn’t expect the dish to have such a good flavor profile. But many times simpler is better.
It is worth it to make your own homemade chicken stock for this recipe. A homemade broth will have so much more flavor than a generic boxed one. Don’t get me wrong, I love using store-bought stock. But when it is such an important part of the dish, it does take it to the next level to make your own.
All About That Rice
The type of rice used to make risotto is very important. Use high-starch short-grain rice to get the right texture. The two recommended varieties are Carnaroli and Arborio rice. Both are high-starch varieties. The more common long-grain rice varieties won’t make a risotto.
It all has to do with how risotto is made. The rice cooks in the broth and releases starch. This thickens the stock and turns into a creamy sauce that, combined with the now cooked rice, becomes risotto.
To make risotto, heat olive oil in a pan and sauté a shallot (Step #1). Use onion as a substitute for shallot if needed. Then add in the rice, stir to coat, and cook for a couple of minutes (Step #2). However, make sure not to let the rice brown. Add a cup of hot chicken stock to the rice and stir (Step #3). Continue stirring and stirring so that nothing sticks to the bottom. When the rice has absorbed nearly all of the broth, add another cup and stir again.
Repeat the process of adding stock and stirring until the rice comes to the right texture (Step #4). The texture of a good risotto should be just a little past an al dente pasta. There will be a bit of bite to the rice still – you don’t want to cook it into a pile of mush that could be slurped up a straw. After it is cooked, turn the heat off and stir in the parmesan cheese (Step #5).
Ladle a bit more stock into the risotto and give it a good stir if it gets too thick after adding the parmesan. Now you have a finished risotto (Step #6). Make sure to plate it and serve while warm so it doesn’t lose steam and over-thicken.
Optional Risotto Ingredients
This basic risotto recipe is delicious itself as a side dish. But it can easily be transformed with other proteins, herbs, and spices to become something else. It is a great template from which you can experiment to find something that you truly love.
For proteins, add cooked shrimp, grilled chicken, or sautéed mushrooms after you have stirred in the parmesan cheese. Other flavors can be added to the mix. Saffron is a common addition for its color and signature flavor – this is called risotto alla milanese. Various wines can also be used in the cooking process. Use about 1/2 cup and replace the white wine vinegar that starts off the rice cooking process.
Note that you will want to have proteins and vegetables cooked prior to adding to the risotto. In most cases, it doesn’t make sense to try and cook them within the risotto itself. Most spices and dried herbs would be added towards the start of the cooking process to release flavors while it simmers. Fresh herbs would be introduced with the parmesan cheese, or as a topping while plating.
I have seen some online recipes for ‘sweet risottos’ but those really fall under the rice pudding category in my opinion. Rice puddings are similar in that you cook starchy rice in a liquid (typically milk) but they are sweet.
However you flavor it, risotto provides the perfect creamy texture as a side dish and is an excellent canvas for your creativity.
How to Make RisottoCourse: Entrees, SidesDifficulty: Moderate
Let’s make risotto – a traditional Italian method of cooking rice in chicken stock to create deep flavor from simple ingredients
6 to 8 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup chopped shallot
2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
- Heat the chicken stock in a large saucepan over medium-low heat
- In a separate frying pan with deep sides, heat the olive oil on medium heat
- Add the shallot, stir it into the oil, and let it cook while stirring for a few minutes until it starts to become translucent
- Pour the rice into the pan, stir to coat it in the oil, and cook for two minutes while stirring – do not let the rice brown
- Add the white wine vinegar to the rice and cook while stirring until the liquid is almost gone
- Stir one cup of the hot chicken stock from the saucepan into the rice
- Continue stirring constantly until nearly all of the liquid is gone
- Repeat steps 6-7 with the remaining chicken stock until the rice is cooked through to the right texture – a little past al dente, not mushy
- Remove the rice from the heat, add the parmesan cheese and salt, and stir to combine
- The finished risotto should still flow a bit if stirred around and not hold its shape, if it doesn’t flow, then add a ladle or two of chicken stock and stir to combine until it is the right consistency
- If you run out of stock and the rice is still not done, then water can be used to take it to the right texture without affecting the flavor much