What is Risotto?
Risotto a creamy, moist, flavoured rice dish, Italian in origin, and is very, very easy to make, but takes around 20 minutes at the stove (stirring). The basis of all risotto dishes is the same.
Risotto takes various flavourings during the cooking process. The thing about risotto is that the type of rice used in its making releases a creaminess into the dish as it is constantly stirred during cooking. Don’t be tempted to call a dish made with any other cooking method a risotto.
Choosing Rice for Risotto
It is best to make sure that you have a risotto rice which is absorbent and becomes creamy on cooking in this manner. Try various rices – types and brands – until you find one that suits you.
There are a few risotto rices available. Aborio is a very popular risotto rice, but it is fun to experiment with different rices. Incidentally, Arborio is the name of a village in the Po River valley in northern Italy, where this variety of rice was first grown.
Your Italian grocery will most likely stock alternative risotto rices. There is an argument that aborio is not the best rice for risotto. Most recommended alternatives are carnaroli and vialone nano. Currently I have been using Riso Vialone Nano, and it is a cracker. Vialone Nano has a round, thick grain and a kernel that is very unlikely to break. It is good for risotti with robust ingredients – and it is now a favorite. Vialone Nano can also be used for Italian pilaf style dishes.
How to Cook Risotto
It is best to not skimp on the process described below – if you shortcut it, and the dish loses creaminess. A risotto should be served moist, almost like a very thick soup. A dry risotto is not worth eating.
Take 2 Tblspn olive oil, 25g butter, 200g risotto rice, 6 – 8 cups of water or stock. Have the water or stock simmering on the stove.
In a separate, heavy-based saucepan, heat the oil and butter. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil and butter. Stir for 2 minutes until you hear a cracking sound and the rice becomes translucent. Add a ladleful of the simmering water or stock, and stir until it is absorbed. Continue adding more liquid in this manner until the rice is cooked.
Taste after 18 minutes. The rice should be firm to the bite. If you like it less chalky, cook for up to another 5 minutes, so that it is tender in the middle, but not soft.
Remove from the heat, add the extra flavourings (see separate recipes). Season and stir. Serve.
In my experience, during the first 5 minutes of cooking, the rice absorbs quite a lot of stock. By the end of that time, the risotto is visibly becoming very creamy. In the second and third 5 minutes of cooking it absorbs about half the stock of the first 5 minutes. The final five minutes, I lower the heat and let the rice slowly come to an al dente consistency, adding just enough stock to keep it at a slightly wet consistency.
Try some other risotto dishes – Beetroot Risotto, Caramelised Pumpkin Risotto and Asparagus Risotto are some of our favourites. You can see how to make a basic risotto here. Check out all of our Risotto recipes, and all of our Italian recipes. Explore our easy Autumn recipes here and here.
Feel free to browse recipes from our Retro Recipes series – vegetarian recipes from our first blog from 1995 – 2006.
from the Risotto series
- Beetroot Risotto, two ways
- Caramelised Pumpkin Risotto
- Eggplant Risotto
- Asparagus Risotto
- Tomato Risotto