- 2-3 quarts of water
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, cut in small dice
- 1/2 teaspoon herb salt
- 1 cup risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 4 ounces pecorino cheese, shredded
On its own, Risotto makes a wonderfully creamy sauce that can serve as the foundation for a myriad of flavors (See our post on Risotto 101 if you want to see the basics). So it’s prefect for ramping up a cheese sauce. One of our favorite ways to make risotto is to keep the flavors really simple and use cheese to enhance the creaminess and flavor of the risotto. The result is the risotto equivalent of macaroni & cheese – hearty comfort food that warms the soul.
So, since this might be our last “cold front” of the season here in Texas, we thought it was the prefect time to roll out one of our favorite comfort foods.
Our recipe follows the basics of Risotto 101, but uses water instead of stock to let the flavor of the cheese shine through. And because the flavor of the cheese is the main flavor of the dish, it’s important to use a cheese that has good flavor but isn’t too strong. Heating cheese really accentuates its flavor, so a pungent cheese can get really stinky. On the other hand, using a cheese that’s too mild will result in a bland dish. We’ve pictured our Pecorino con Pepe, which is a complex sheep’s milk cheese with whole peppercorns. It tastes somewhat like an elevated Manchego and adds a wonderful complexity to the finished risotto.
To begin, start a pot of water to boil using the 2-3 quarts of water in the recipe. While waiting for the water to come to a boil, mince the garlic and finely chop the onion. When the water comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and leave it there.
In a separate pan, using a generous amount of olive oil (2-3 tablespoons), cook the garlic over medium heat until it just starts to brown.
Add the minced onion and the herb salt and saute until the onions are translucent, just as they start to brown. The idea is to eliminate the raw onion taste and make them a bit more complex, not to make them too sweet.
Add the rice and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice grains start to lose a little color on their edges. We’ve pictured our carnaroli rice, which we like for risotto because it stays al dente longer than arborio rice and so is harder to overcook than arborio.
Once the rice has started to cook, add the wine. You want to use a dry white wine that’s not too fruity. We’ve pictured a wine from Orvieto, which perfectly fits the bill.
After the wine has been almost completely absorbed by the rice, start ladling in water, just like you would if it were stock, one ladle at a time. Only add a new ladle of water once the last one has been almost completely absorbed. After about 12-15 minutes, the rice will really slow down its absorption of the water, and after about 20 minutes, the risotto will be done. Taste it to know if it is done – it should be mostly cooked through, with a bit of resistance inside.
At this point, you’ll want the rice a little loose. If it isn’t, add a bit more of the simmering water and then take the rice off the heat. Stir in the shredded cheese and serve, topping with a bit of chopped parsley if you want to add a bit of color to the dish. Enjoy!