A traditional Italian dish, risotto is rice cooked slowly in stock until thick and creamy. It’s delicious either served plain or with meat, seafood or vegetables. Despite its reputation for being troublesome, risotto is actually quite straightforward to cook.
The key to a good risotto is to use short-grain starchy rice. Arborio is the most commonly used risotto rice but Carnaroli, Vialone Nano and Baldo are also popular. When cooked slowly by adding small amounts of hot stock and stirring continuously, risotto rice releases its starch, which creates a rich creamy sauce.
You will need to pay constant attention to your saucepan during the cooking but a wonderfully rich, creamy dish of risotto will be yours in less than half an hour.
- 150g Arborio or other risotto rice
- About 600ml good quality vegetable or chicken stock
- Half an onion, finely chopped
- 75ml dry white wine or dry white vermouth
- 50g of butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- A pinch of salt
- 50g parmesan cheese
How to cook risotto
1. Heat your stock in a saucepan over a medium heat. When it begins to boil, reduce the heat to low so it remains hot but not simmering.
2. Melt 25g of the butter with the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan or sauté pan over a medium heat. Gently fry the onion in the butter until soft but not brown.
3. Add your risotto rice to the pan and stir to coat the grains in the melted butter. Fry until the grains become slightly translucent. Be careful not to brown or burn the rice.
4. Turn up the heat a little. Add the wine, and stir continuously until it is fully absorbed by the rice.
5. Add a ladleful of hot stock and a pinch of salt, continuing to stir until all the stock is fully absorbed.
6. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Keep adding the stock a ladleful at a time while continuing to stir. Wait until it is absorbed by the rice before adding the next ladleful. As it cooks, the rice will thicken and become creamy as it begins to release its natural starches. Cooking time should be about 20 minutes.
7. Taste the risotto. The risotto is ready when the rice is ‘al dente’ – firm to the bite but not hard, and the dish has the consistency of thick, glossy porridge.
8. Remove the pan from the heat. Dot the remaining butter around the pan and add the parmesan cheese. Wait for a minute or two until these begin to melt and then stir thoroughly. Serve the risotto immediately on warm plates.
While most of the harsh alcohol evaporates when cooked with the rice, if you prefer not to use wine or vermouth, simply skip step 4 and add an extra 50-75ml of stock instead.
Stir the risotto gently during cooking with a wooden spoon as it’s less likely to break the rice grains than a metal spoon.
Have a little extra stock to hand in case you need it. But if the risotto still isn't ready despite adding all the stock, use a little hot water to finish the cooking. Add a ladleful at a time as with the stock and continue to stir until it's completely absorbed and the rice is cooked through.