Risotto is an Italian dish made from a special type of rice called arborio. This short-grained rice is also used in rice pudding. These grains have a higher starch content, resulting in a firm grain (al dente) when cooked.
Risotto isn’t just a restaurant dish. You can make any risotto recipe at home using these easy tips and tricks! Plus, six ways to make risotto!
It can also absorb a lot more liquid than average rice and therefore a lot more flavor. It is also unique in the starches that cook off result in a creamy, gravy-like sauce without using any cream or cheese.
The add-ins for risotto are endless and include everything from fruits and veggies to meats and seafood. It can be served as a side dish or an entree. Its versatility makes it perfect for any meal and the skill is something every home cook should possess.
While risotto seems like a challenging dish, it is actually fairly easy, just more hands-on. Follow these basic tips to make the perfect risotto every time with any recipe, although I’ve listed a few of my favorites at the end.
ONE. Toasting the pearly grains before cooking breaks down the starchy outside layer, allowing grains to absorb liquid (and flavor) more readily. It will also bring out a nutty flavor in the grain.
TWO. Always heat the liquid you are adding to the risotto. Adding cold liquid can result in soggy grains because it reduces the temperture so drastically when added, allowing the moisture to sit longer before being absorbed.
THREE. Add liquid slowly. These tiny grains get easily overwhelmed and only like to tackle about a ladle full to a cup at a time. Adding too much at once will also result in a mushy mess. You know it is time to add more when the bottom of the pan starts to get dry.
FOUR. Depending on heat, some risotto can require more or less than the original recipe calls for. Taste test along the way to achieve the perfect texture. If you run out of warm liquid (wine, broth, stock, etc) you can add warm water.
FIVE. Add-ins should be fully cooked and added last. Any remaining moisture from these can change the texture of the rice. Overcooking (while waiting for add-ins to cook) can mush the rice.
SIX. Lastly, use a large skillet versus a saucepan. This provides a larger cooking surface that will distribute heat evenly to a larger quantity of rice grains over a shorter period of time. Avoid using cast iron for these dishes, as the cast iron itself will absorb some of the liquid.
While this sounds like a lot of rules, this is fairly simple and easy to master, I promise. Now give some of my favorites a try!
Here are some great risotto recipes to get you started!
- Creamy Mushroom Risotto
- Bacon and Pea Risotto
- Beet Risotto
- Tomato and Basil Risotto
- Parsnip, Sage and Mascarpone Risotto
- Butternut Squash Risotto
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