How to Cook Basic Risotto

A great Italian classic.

Tomato Risotto

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.

Similar recipes include Beetroot Risotto, Parsnip Risotto with RosemaryCaramelised Roast Pumpkin Risotto, Asparagus Risotto, Eggplant Risotto and Tomato Risotto.

All of the Risotto recipes are here and our Italian recipes here. And check out our easy Mid Spring recipes too.

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.

Three Cheese Risotto

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.

Arborio 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.

Risotto with Mushrooms

How to cook Basic Risotto

Cuisine: Italian
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)
parmesan cheese
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.

Asparagus Risotto

recipe notes
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.

Tomato Risotto

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!

Beetroot Risotto







10 thoughts on “How to Cook Basic Risotto”

  1. Rice is my favourite form of carbo loading and I agree, arborio is very good for it. Carnaroli is another Italian risotto rice, and I have even used shortgrained fat pudding rice (also very starchy) in a pinch and it has worked just fine. I love the roasted peppers and would be happy to eat this gorgeous dish at least 5 times a week!

  2. Perfectly described risotto technique.

    I’m going to show my partner your post – he loves risotto, but always stuffs it up somehow. Not being mindful, methinks.

  3. Sorry for late replies – my family is staying with me and life is very busy. Thanks Sunita – we had a risotto again last night. This time a tomato risotto that is finished off in the oven.
    Hi african vanielje, thanks for the tip about carnaroli. I wll look for it. Hey, Lucy, hope your partner has improved his technique.
    Thanks Gaurav, you are very kind.

  4. This post has been so helpful! I’ve always had trouble making risotto, but this is going to help me improve a lot!

    Hello, keepingnote, I hope it gives you some inspiration. The key to making risotto is some good music to cook dinner by on the stereo and a good glass of wine in your left hand, as you stir the risotto with your right. Or, more usual for me, you can always go into a meditative trance while stirring. 🙂

  5. It is not easy at all to make a risotto! In fact, in most of Italian restaurants it is very hard to eat a nice one. You have to be Italian, and a good chef too – or an old-style housewife. Also, THE BASIS IS NOT AT ALL always the same; it depends on what you are cooking. It is very humble to say that to make a risotto you only need to stir for 20 minutes while adding brot. You may need oil or butter, onion and/or garlic, different herbs and seasonings, wine and/or cream…Try to do a Risotto alla Milanese with a basis of olive oil and garlic, for instance….THE BASIS IS NEVER THE SAME!!!!!AND IT DOES MATTER!Plus, as a French chef, I can tell you that risotto is not OF ITALIAN ORIGINS, IT IS JUST ITALIAN!

    Thank you for your illuminating comments. I am so sorry to have upset you. It was unintentional. Note however that I clearly and repeatedly indicate that I am discussing a **basic** risotto for cooking at home. As you point out, there are many many different types of risotto, each with its own flavourings either added before or with the rice, or at the end, after the rice is cooked. Pls see my other risotto postings for some variations. Thanks again for voicing your opinion. I appreciate that. May your world be bright.

  6. I am not going to be original this time, so all I am going to say that your blog rocks, sad that I don’t have such writing skills

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