Perhaps you've been noticing the proliferation of risotto on the menus of better Italian restaurants lately. That's because the dish, slow-cooked and packed with flavor (butter, olive oil and wine), is essentially comfort food. It's cheesy. It's silky. It personifies the seductiveness of Italian cooking. It's a total crowd pleaser and while it appears time-consuming and complicated, it's not. In reality, risotto is a relatively quick meal that only takes a handful of ingredients and is prepared with basically two tools—a large spoon in one hand and a glass of vino in the other. There is a lot of stirring involved, but it's pretty hard to screw up and there's a real sense of accomplishment when you start with just a few ingredients and end up with a hearty and delicious meal. And the more you make it, the better it gets. Consider this your gateway recipe.
Because risotto originated as a rib-sticking peasant food, it can be made with a variety of ingredients. This is a basic cheesy, herb-tinged risotto, made to be complemented with anything from roasted vegetables to sautéed chicken or scallops.
- 6 cups of vegetable stock
- 1 tb. butter
- 1 tb. olive oil
- 2 shallots, minced
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Fresh herbs such as thyme, chives or Italian parsley,
- Your risotto should have the creamy, stick-to-spoon consistency of oatmeal.
The key is toasting the rice (step 3, below), so it absorbs the broth and releases its starch. And then taking tester bites towards the end, to ensure you achieve the perfect just-cooked consistency.
Pour the broth in a saucepan and simmer over low heat.
In a wide pot or deep pan, heat the butter and oil over medium heat until melted and shimmering. Add your onion, a dash of salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes.
Add the rice, incorporating it into the onion and allowing it to toast for about two minutes. Stir in the wine and once it's nearly absorbed, pour in one cup of broth and stir until the rice absorbs it. Continue adding broth (a cup at a time), stirring and letting it absorb, until the rice is al dente, about 20 to 30 minutes (you may not use all the broth).
Remove from heat and stir in the herbs and half the cheese. Taste and season with more salt, pepper or cheese as needed. If you were adding roasted vegetables or meat, this is when you'd do it.