Cooking foods - Rice: Risotto

Before you start

Two ingredients are essential to make the a perfect risotto: the right type of rice and a good broth, which must stay really hot while adding it gradually to the rice, so that the temperature of the risotto remains the same.

For the rice, choose one with large grains and high starch content. The three most popular varieties are: Arborio (large and rounded grain, creamy texture, the most popular variety), Carnaroli (longer grain, holds its shape well even when completely cooked, a good choice if you find that your risotto always turns a little mushy), Vialone nano (creamiest, smoothest texture of all). The rice grains should not be rinsed before cooking, since the fine dusting of starch on the grains gives a better texture to the risotto.

For the quantities of rice and broth, when risotto is served as a main course, calculate 80 to100 g of rice per serving (7 to 9 tablespoons) and about 2 to 2,5 times the amount in volume or 2,5 to 2,7 times the amount in weight of broth. It is not possible to be more precise since different grains will absorb a different amount of broth, and evaporation / pan size variations will also affect the optimum ratio.

Method

There are 3 methods to make a risotto. They all start and end in the same way.

1) Initial common step: Melt the butter or oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Sauté the vegetables (usually a chopped onion) over medium-low heat a few minutes, until the onion is translucent, with stirring. Increase the heat to high and pour in the rice. Stir the grains 2 min until translucent, but do not allow them to brown. If the recipe calls for wine, it may be added at this point, after the rice "toasting".

2a) Traditional method: The hot broth is added gradually, about ½ to ¾ cup at a time, and the mixture is stirred almost continually. Each time that the grains becomes dry, a new addition of broth is made, just enough to cover the rice. It is important to keep the broth hot during the whole preparation. The risotto is ready after about 18-20 min when the grains do not absorb any more liquid, remain separate, and are soft on the outside, but still firm inside (al dente). If there is not enough broth remaining at the end and the rice needs a little more cooking, water may be added. Depending on the recipe, other ingredients may be added during the preparation.

2b) Pressure-cooker time-saving method: After the rice "toasting" step, the hot broth is added all at once. In this case, the amount of liquid is exactly 2,5 times the weight amount of rice (i.e. for 100 g rice, add 250 ml of broth). The pot is closed and brought to high pressure. After only 7 minutes the risotto is ready. I must admit that this is my favourite method, because of its time-saving and consistent quality.

2c) Modern stir-saving method: After the rice "toasting" step, pour in about half of the hot broth, all at once. Cook over low heat 3 min, with constant stirring, then add the remaining stock, cover, and continue to cook about 15 min, stirring only occasionally. If liquid remains at the end, increase the heat to medium and cook uncovered until no liquid runs between the grains when stirred.

3) Final common step: A classic risotto always requires adding a bit of butter or olive oil at the end, with the pan removed from the heat. The purpose is to make the risotto plumper and creamier. I normally omit this addition to make my recipes healthier. However, adding some cheese (if called for in the recipe) and letting the risotto stand 2-3 min before serving is a must.

Comments

In Italy risotto is traditionally served in the same bowls or dishes used for pasta. The sloping rims of the pasta dish help retain the heat and keep the risotto warm.

Go to the blog >>

Newsletter

Get nutrition advice and cooking tips delivered for free in your mail box every week!