Risotto: How to make risotto perfect every time

Article by: Allrecipes staff  |  Picture by: Key
Risotto: How to make risotto perfect every time
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Often thought of as something one only orders in restaurants, risotto has made many inroads to the home kitchen as it proves itself to be versatile, delicious and actually easy to make.

Though thought to be a difficult dish – constant stirring and attention are hallmarks of risotto recipes – it only takes making risotto once to see it is a much more straightforward meal than most cookbooks would have you realise.

The rice

If it's called risotto, it must begin with the rice. Classically, Carnaroli or Arborio rice is used. Short and plump, they are high in starch and able to absorb quite a bit of liquid without becoming mushy. But don't get too mired in the details of the rice. Any small, starchy grain - rice, pearl barley, spelt or faro - can be cooked risotto-style for delicious results.
Stock up

Rice is often cooked with twice as much liquid as rice. Not so with risotto. Because it's cooked uncovered on the hob, much more liquid evaporates. Plan on about three times as much liquid for a risotto recipe, and that liquid should be stock of some sort. Homemade chicken stock is the staple in restaurants, but at home you can use whatever stock you prefer – chicken, beef, vegetable or fish – as long as it adds good flavour and matches the ingredients you're adding to the risotto.
Stock cubes?
Stock cubes are perfectly acceptable. Just watch the salt – it can become overpowering as the liquid evaporates. Choose low-salt stock cubes if possible.
Adding aromatics

The stock is your first base of flavour. Heat it up in a saucepan, as a warm stock will cook into the risotto more quickly and evenly. While that's heating, sauté onions or shallots in a heavy bottomed pan. After those aromatics have softened, add the rice and 'toast' it in the pan. You'll know it's ready when the rice turns translucent at the edges. If the recipe calls for any wine, add it now to continue building the flavour.
Which wine?
The slight acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc blends wonderfully in a risotto.
Stir crazy? Maybe not

Though you can't just leave risotto on the hob and forget about it, the admonitions about stirring constantly are often overstated. Add the stock a little at a time – 125ml, or about a ladleful – and only add more stock when it is absorbed into the risotto. Keep the heat just high enough to barely simmer the stock and risotto. You must pay attention, and stir it more than occasionally, but you don't have to be a slave to the hob.

Take this time to prep your next ingredients, such as grated Parmesan or anything else you're adding to the dish, between bouts of stirring.

The risotto is done when it's just al dente – firm but not crunchy to the tooth. It should be fluid rather than a solid scoopful when you serve it; you want it to 'shimmer' a little in the bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and anything else that strikes your fancy – prosciutto, cooked prawns, steamed vegetables, sautéed mushrooms or chicken. Stir in a knob of butter at the very end for extra richness.
Need risotto recipes?

Looked at as a technique rather than a chore, a good risotto opens up endless variety to your meals. Check out our Risotto recipe collection for loads of fabulous ideas.
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