How to Make Risotto Like a Pro
Risotto, really? Yes, you got this.
Risotto is one of those things that I think many home cooks think is daunting. This fear is certainly fed by Food Television, where making risotto has gotten more than one person Chopped, and mediocre versions of it seem to hurt Tom Colicchio's personal feelings.
But here is a secret, my friends. Risotto? It’s not that hard. Especially when no one is judging you and the clock isn’t running and $10,000 or the title of Top Chef are not at stake. Will every risotto you make be Colicchio-approved? Nope. But they will be delicious in their own way. And unless you are a lot fancier than I am, he's not gonna be tasting it.
The recipe below is for a super basic risotto. It’s flavored only with onion, wine, stock, and cheese. This allows it to be a pantry-friendly and last-minute, but also a backdrop for any garnishes or mix-ins that you can dream of. Add any leftover meats, vegetables, or herbs. Use up the last of a bottle of wine, or vermouth, or Lillet. Mix up the flavor of stock however you like. Change the cheese. But don’t skip the butter. I repeat: don’t skip the butter.
Use it as a side dish or a main. Leftovers can be patted into discs or rolled into balls, breaded and fried for risotto cakes or arancini. Magic!
Get the recipe: Pan-Seared Shrimp and Arugula Risotto
The three keys to risotto are: choose the right rice (you cannot sub other styles, they won’t work); take the time to stir so that the starches release; and taste taste taste to get it right. Having said that, once you master the technique, try it with other grains, or with small shapes of pasta, which might not get as creamy, but will still be delicious.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped onion, shallot, scallion or leek
1 ½ cups risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
½ cup dry white wine (or vermouth, or beer, or cider)
4 cups broth (flavor of your choice)
½ cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
How to Make Risotto
Melt half of the butter with all of the oil in a heavy-bottomed 2 1/2- to 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the onion, and cook until it's soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice to the pan, stirring frequently, until it is translucent, and has changed to a very light golden color, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, bring the broth to a boil and then turn off the heat.
Pour the wine over the sautéed rice. Cook the rice, stirring constantly until all wine is absorbed. Add a cup of the warm broth. Cook at a vigorous simmer while stirring constantly. When the rice starts to thicken, and you can see a trail in the bottom of the pot when you drag your spoon through it, pour in another 1/2 cup of broth while adding some salt. The amount of salt you add should depend how salty your broth is. Be careful as this reduces, and err on the side of caution.
Keep adding broth 1/2 cup at a time every time the rice thickens, but don't let the rice dry out or absorb it completely. After 15 minutes, start tasting the rice for doneness and seasoning. Cook until rice is tender but still has some firmness to it—25 to 35 minutes total. It will depend entirely on your rice, the level of humidity in the air, and other factors. Just keep tasting. The final 1/2 cup addition of broth is the most important. Add only enough to finish cooking the rice without it becoming soupy and reserve the rest.
When it's just about done, add the rest of the butter and the cheese and stir briskly to develop a creamy starch. If the risotto is too thick, add a splash of broth. You want the risotto to be, as the Italians would say, al’londe, or like a wave. It should be a bit like lava, slow-moving but still more liquid than solid. Season one last time to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot with the garnishes of your choosing.