Risotto is a wonderfully versatile Italian rice dish whose creaminess depends on the selection of the rice. The basics of cooking risotto are very very easy. Take rice. Add stock gradually. Stir for 20 minutes. Serve. Enjoy! Of course, there is slightly more to it than that.
This is a vegetarian recipe from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2006. You can browse other recipes from this blog in our Retro Recipes series.
What is a Risotto?
A risotto is a creamy, moist, flavoursome rice dish, Italian in origin, that is very, very easy to make. It does take around 20 minutes at the stove (stirring). The basis of all risotto dishes is the same.
I once wrote in 1997 when I first cooked risotto:
Finally, most risottos should be served moist, almost like a very thick soup. A dry risotto that is meant to be moist is not worth eating :-(.
It is best not to skimp on the process described below – if shortcuts are taken, the dish loses some creaminess. It does take 20 minutes, but that time is quite a beautiful, meditative time where you can think your thoughts and stir your love into the rice.
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 Basic Risotto
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins
2 Tblspn Olive Oil
25 g butter
200 g risotto rice
5 cups simmering light stock or water
a little dry white wine (optional)
Salt and pepper
Have the water or stock (home-made vegetable stock is ideal), simmering on the stove. A little white wine in the stock is good.
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 ladle 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 mentioned above).
Stir through a small knob of butter and a large knob of Parmesan cheese, grated. Add salt and pepper. Some people add some cream or creme fraiche, but if you have a good risotto rice, you don’t need this.
Season and stir. Serve.
All of the Risotto recipes are here.
A simple risotto with some Parmesan cheese, a few herbs tossed through, and a dusting of salt and pepper is a great and simple dish on its own.
You can add any vegetable that has been pre-cooked – mushrooms, or peas, even beans. Add asparagus, spinach or tomatoes (raw or cooked). Char grilled capsicums. Ruby Red Tomato Bites. I love a char-grilled capsicum and steamed broccoli risotto with pine nuts.
That’s it. That’s the basics. Just 20 minutes of stirring. Enjoy!