Risotto could possibly be one of the most classic yet misunderstood dishes. Why? Everyone loves it and (almost!) everyone thinks it’s too hard to make. Some think it is just cheesy rice, while others chase after the this perfect dish of creamy, cheesy rice with an al dente bite, assuming it is too difficult to achieve. Well, we are here to tell you, while it does take time and takes a bit of technique,it isn’t that hard and the creamy, melt in your mouth taste is worth the work!
When in Culinary school, Dean knew a fellow student that went to intern at Le Cirque, a world class French restaurant in NYC, and her only job over the 6 weeks was to make the risotto. Wow, 6 weeks, 10 hours a day, 6 days a week…that’s 360 hours of risotto making! Dean thought, “it must be hard right”? And he wondered if this would be a dish he could ever perfect. That was, until the 3 week class at the Colovita Center (the Italian center at the Culinary Institute of America, where Dean attended Culinary school), where he learned that, to the Italian chefs, risotto was just a dish, a very specific dish that you have to perfect or it becomes a massive fail, but still, just a dish. It really is a simple process, 1 part rice, 3 parts warm liquid, some wine, butter and Fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Then of course, technique, stir, stir, stir. It was from there that he learned how to perfect it, and has now become a dish that not only he makes great, but one that is always a hit and has people coming back for more.
But first let’s take a step back, can we talk about rice? To skip a lecture on rice, we’ll keep this short, but we promise this is super important when it comes to what type of rice you need to use for this recipe! Short grain rice is the stubbier, fat grained rice, types like sushi rice, bomba for paella, and the typical Arborio rice used in risotto. While we traversed Italy, you will find that rice is more popular in the north. We found farmers selling their rice and of course learned their passion and knowledge about cooking it. We learned that to them, arborio was the rice to use to make arancini, suppili al telephono or other “repurposed” rice dishes. If you wanted to make risotto, you use the “king” of rice, Carnaroli, which is an even stubbier short grain than Arborio. If you are looking for carnoroli, what you should know about it is that it will absorb more liquid, and release a nice amount of starch that will lend a very creamy risotto, and be able to take a bit of overcooking before breaking. There is a third, the very regional, vialone, from the regions around Venice, though this type is not commonly stocked in stores. If you are desperate to try, you can probably find it at an Italian specialty importer or online shop. It’s fairly close to carnoroli, so either will work. If you can find carnaroli, or vialone, buy it! If not Arborio is still great, it’s been the mainstay for decades and will work fine and arborio is the type you most commonly see for Risotto and what you will most likely find at the store or get when you order at a restaurant. We do beg you though, don’t use medium or long grain rice, or even worse, parboiled rice! They just don’t have the right starch, or liquid capacity to make a proper risotto.
There are many flavors that you can make with risotto and since we are writing this recipe in summer, and it’s black summer truffle season, that’s what our pictures are of! We have also included some photos of when we made Risi e Bisi Milanese, which is a saffron risotto with spring peas! However, feel free to use this basic recipe to add whatever flavors you want, Some fun ideas would be a classic risotto which has just parmesan, a puréed pea risotto with mint and goat cheese, one with mushrooms and truffles or use a seafood stock and serve with sautéed shrimp or grilled halibut. We have also used a vanilla and cinnamon scented milk to make a sweet rice pudding for dessert, yum!
Thank you, thank you! We are the Two Fat Americans and thank you for attending our Ted Talk! Haha but really, we are passionate about these things so we appreciate you reading through and learning about the important details that go into each dish… now onto the recipe!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: Around 45 minutes
First things first, perhaps one of the most important steps to any recipe is your Mis en place which is French for, things in place which means before you do anything, get all your ingredients measured out and ready to go. Get that stock heating, onions cut, wine ready for deglazing (pour a big glass for yourself too, that’s an important step!), butter cubes ready and Parmigiano-Reggiano grated and ready to go. Please, please, please, if your cheese is from a shaker can, skip that! It is so important to buy fresh parm and grate it. It’s like buying a sports car, then putting bald tires on it. You’ve gone through so much, finish strong!
We go by the basic ratio method, that way you’re always sure to know how much you need, 3:1 stock to rice.
– 1 1/3 cup of Arborio, carnoli or vialone rice
– 4 cups Chicken, Vegetable, or Fish stock
– 2 TB olive oil or butter (and an additional 2 TB butter to be added at the finish)
– 2 cloves of garlic, minced
– 1 small or 1/2 medium white onion diced
– 6 oz dry white wine, room temp
– 2-3 oz Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
– Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
– Sea salt to taste
You can also add other additional seasonings like thyme, rosemary, saffron and parmesan rind to the stock, that way the flavor is infused throughout the dish.
Time to start cooking!
First, get your stock heating up. In a small saucepan, heat up your stock of choice with your seasonings of choice. We like to keep this on the back burner on low so that it is handy for ladling in to our rice mixture and remains warm.
Next, in a large wide skillet or pot, put your olive oil or first measure of butter (2 TBs) in the pan and gently heat on medium low. When the oil/butter is just slightly warm, it’s time to put your garlic in, this will help to flavor the fat and carry it through without burning and tasting acrid. Sauté the garlic until it becomes fragrant and then add in your diced onion. Sauté this mixture for about 2 minutes. When the onions become translucent, add in the dry rice. (You will notice in our picture, we added in some mushrooms before adding the rice, you can do this with certain vegetables that you adding. Those that are more hearty and take longer to cook) Stir this mixture for about a minute before adding in any liquid, it will add a nice nuttiness, but more importantly, this will heat the whole mixture up so that you will be adding hot stock to hot rice.
After the rice has been toasted in the pan, deglaze with the white wine. Pour your wine into the warm rice mixture and with a wooden spoon, make sure to scrape any of the stuck into bits on the bottom and stir the rice in so it absorbs that slightly acidic bite from the wine.
Now, the exciting part begins! It is now time to stir in the hot stock. Get ready for a good 30-40 minutes of stirring. This may seem excessive, but it’s what activates the starch release in the rice, and that is what makes that signature creamy texture. Use a ladle to ladle in the stock, about 8oz at a time. Keep the heat at medium, to medium low, but above a lazy simmer. Too high and the liquid will evaporate before being absorbed. The thing to remember here, is to stir stir stir. You don’t need to be fast or rapid here, just a constant stir will do the trick. Keep stirring, with the spoon, we like to alternate between a figure 8, and around the pot, then a back and forth. The video below is just a short, but time lapses session in stirring.
Usually we go with about 4 separate additions of the stock, make sure the rice absorbs all of the stock before adding more.
After adding the last of the stock, your rice should have a nice al dente bite. If your heat was a little too high, you may need to add more stock or water to finish it off. Taste it! If it doesn’t taste cooked enough, that is when you’ll know you need to add a little more.
Time to finish it off! Take your second measure of butter, and cut it into chunks, drop a chunk in, stir it until it melts into the risotto, do this until all the butter is added. Now add in your freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir in. *Important note!* It is always best to adjust your seasonings AFTER you add in the parm at the end. Parmesan is salty, so you don’t want to add salt first as it might become too salty after the cheese is added.
That’s it! You should have a nice, rich and creamy risotto now! Below you will see the finished product on the left with a crispy chicken milanese on top, and an example of the Risi e Bisi risotto on the right as well! For our crispy chicken milanese recipe, click here!
See!? It wasn’t that hard was it? Just a little time and patience and you too can make a classic and delicious risotto that will be sure to please a crowd (and your tummy!) Enjoy! Please be sure to leave us a comment and tell us how it turned out when you tried it!