Have you always wanted to cook this Italian favorite but need help figuring out where to start? First, let me guide you on how to make basic risotto the traditional way. Then you can try the rest of the classic risotto recipes as well!
What is risotto?
Risotto is a quick, delicious dish that can be served as a side dish or as a meal on its own.
It originated in northern Italy, where the different types of risotto rice were initially grown — plus, it’s excellent comfort food for that colder part of the country.
Nowadays, you see tons of risotto varieties, all starting from this simple, basic risotto recipe.
So let’s start with the perfect type of risotto rice.
What is the best rice for risotto?
There are three kinds traditionally used for cooking basic risotto:
- Vialone Nano
Out of these three, arborio is the most used because it’s widely available — while vialone nano is quite hard to find (at least outside Italy).
Carnaroli is the one I prefer because it’s excellent in keeping its shape and texture when cooked.
IF YOU WANT MORE NORTH ITALIAN RECIPES, YOU WILL LIKE THESE POSTS!
Basic risotto ingredients
- Olive oil – extra virgin olive oil and go for a mild or fruity one instead of a robust-flavored olive oil.
- Onion – yellow onion and chopped finely.
- Rice – as mentioned above, I always use carnaroli when making risotto.
- White wine – dry white wine that you wouldn’t mind drinking. 😉
- Stock – for basic risotto, I always use chicken stock.
- Parmigiano Reggiano – you can buy them already grated or a chunk and grate it yourself.
- Butter – unsalted or salted, but it must be chilled, not softened.
- Salt – for seasoning, especially if your stock is not seasoned enough.
Making a basic risotto always starts with heating the stock and keeping it simmering.
Place a wide pan over medium heat, then add and heat the oil.
Once the olive oil is ready, add the chopped onions.
Cook until the onion softens.
Add the rice.
Cook for about a minute — some refer to this step as ‘toasting,’ so you need to make sure you stir them during this time.
Pour the white wine.
Mix and let the wine evaporate.
At this point, the starch is coming out — you should see that its starting to get creamy.
Pour about two ladles of the simmering stock into the pan.
Stir until the liquid has been absorbed, then pour another ladle of the stock.
Repeat the process for about eighteen minutes or until the rice is slightly cooked.
Add only a little stock during this time (only if needed), ensuring that the finished risotto is not too watery.
As a final check, place your spatula in the middle of the pan and drag it to the other end. You should see a ‘wave‘ of the remaining liquid meeting on top and downwards.
Take the pan out of the heat.
Add and mix the chunk of butter and the grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Cover with a lid and let sit for two minutes.
Transfer your perfect risotto to plates and serve with freshly grated cheese — enjoy!
- Make sure you chop the onions finely. The aim is that they will disappear (or at least barely noticeable) once the risotto is ready for serving.
- Keep the stock simmering — not just warm from boiling.
- Ensure you have enough oil coating the rice when you’re toasting them.
- Check and adjust the seasoning while cooking (and adding stock) instead of waiting until the end of the process.
- Butter for sauteing. Some use butter instead of olive oil to sauté the onions, and some use a mix of oil and butter.
- Sweet white wine. Instead of dry white wine, you use some prosecco or other bubbly wine.
- Other cheese. Mild cheese like stracchino can be added at the last part of cooking to add more creaminess to your basic risotto.
How long does it take to cook risotto?
The rice should be ready, ideally in twenty minutes.
But it does not mean the pan should be on the stove the entire time.
Here’s what you should ALWAYS do when you’re cooking risotto (of any kind!):
- Take it out of the heat a couple of minutes before (i.e., eighteen minutes)
- Add butter and cheese
- Mix quickly
- Cover with a lid.
- Set it aside for two minutes (tops!).
What is the correct risotto texture?
It should not be a mound of rice that only moves when you push it with a spoon or fork.
The correct risotto texture: It flows and glides on a plate.
That is why when you transfer it to a plate for serving, you only need to give it a shake, and the rice will flow evenly on the dish’s surface.
How do you do this? By ensuring there is enough liquid left — and the ‘wave‘ test in the preparation section above is an excellent way to check for a risotto’s texture.
Classic Risotto Recipes
Now that you know the basics of making a perfect risotto, preparing any of these classic risotto recipes is like a walk in the park. 🙂
Think basic risotto with the delicate flavor and aroma of saffron — just pure deliciousness in every bite.
If you want the complete Milanese meal — serve it with ossobuco, another mouthwatering classic from the city.
Locally known as ‘risotto ai fungi,’ it’s an excellent autumn dish when the mushrooms are in season.
You don’t need to buy expensive fresh mushrooms, though; you can easily create more depth in flavor by using dried mushrooms.
Mushroom risotto looks expensive to prepare, but it’s really not — just pure YUM.
You guessed it; asparagus risotto is perfect for spring.
Also called ‘risotto agli asparagi,’ a handful of fresh asparagus is more than enough to prepare a serving of this vegetable risotto.
Oh! You can use vegetable stock, of course!
While not necessarily a classic risotto recipe, it uses two well-loved Italian cooking ingredients.
Pancetta and peas — salty and sweet, combined with creamy rice.
You must try this pea and pancetta risotto recipe to see for yourself. 🙂
CHECK OUT OTHER IDEAS FROM RICE RECIPES FROM AROUND THE WORLD!
OR IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR MORE EUROPEAN RECIPES, CHECK OUT THESE RECIPES BY COUNTRY!
How to Make Basic Risotto (Traditional)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup rice
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 to 2 & 1/4 cups stock, simmering
- 1 tabalespoon butter, chilled
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- salt, to season
- Place a wide pan over medium heat, then add olive oil.
- Once the oil is ready, add the chopped onions.
- Cook until the onion softens, then add the rice.
- Cook (or toast) for about a minute.
- Pour the white wine, stir, and let the wine evaporate.
- At this point, the starch is coming out — you should see that its starting to get creamy.
- Pour about two ladles of the simmering stock into the pan.
- Stir until the liquid has been absorbed, then pour another ladle of the stock.
- Repeat the process for about 18 minutes or until the rice is slightly cooked.
- Add only a little stock during this time (if at all), ensuring the finished risotto is not too watery.
- As a final check, place your spatula in the middle of the pan and drag it to the other end. You should see a 'wave' of the remaining liquid meeting on top and downwards.
- Take the pan out of the heat.
- Add and mix the chunk of butter and the grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Cover with a lid and let sit for two minutes.
- Transfer your perfect risotto to plates and serve with freshly grated cheese — enjoy!
- Cook’s Tip #1: Chop the onions finely. The aim is that they will disappear (or at least barely noticeable) once the risotto is ready for serving.
- Cook’s Tip #2: Remember to keep the stock simmering, not just warm from boiling — this is crucial for a perfect, basic risotto.