- 32 ounces of no-sodium or low sodium vegetable or chicken stock
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1-4 cloves of garlic, diced (depending on your preference)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (or substitute vermouth or stock)
- 1 cup carnaroli, arborio, or other "risotto" rice
- 3 ounces Parmagiano Reggiano cheese, grated
Why should you get excited about risotto? Because it makes a delicious side dish that produces its own creamy sauce without the need to add cream or thickeners? Because it makes a warming and filling main dish with economical ingredients you likely already have on hand? Because it’s deceptively simple but looks (and tastes) complicated and elegant? Because its silky sauce and al dente rice is the perfect combination of textures? Because you can amp it up with almost any ingredients you like to make it even better? Yes!
The secret to good risotto is the rice. The right rice is very starchy. The starch, when cooked correctly, naturally thickens the cooking liquid, creating a creamy sauce while the rice stays firm and al dente. In America, we’re most familiar with arborio rice being the right rice for risotto, but the Italians also use other rices to make risotto, like carnaroli, baldo, maratelli, and padano.
We prefer carnaroli rice, like our Acquerello caranaroli, pictured here, because it has a higher starch content, has a longer grain, and remains more firm as it cooks, making it easier to turn it into a fabulous risotto without overcooking it.
Risotto is almost all about technique, and the technique is almost all about adding small amounts of hot stock to the risotto as it cooks and waiting for the rice to absorb the stock until you add more. It’s not much more complicated than that.
1. In a medium saucepan, heat the stock to simmering; keep at a simmer.
2. In a large saucepan (i.e., a different saucepan from the one the stock is in), sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the rice to the onion mixture and stir for 2-3 minutes, until it just starts to lose its color at the edges.
4. Add the wine to the pan and stir until the liquid is completely absorbed. If you don’t have wine on hand, you can substitute vermouth, which many folks have in their bar at home. If you prefer not to use alcohol, use a ladle of stock.
5. Begin to add the hot stock, one ladle at a time, stirring occasionally to aid in the absorption. Low- or no-sodium stock is a must because the stock will concentrate as the rice cooks and a full-sodium stock will make the dish far too salty.
6. As soon as the liquid is almost entirely absorbed, add another ladleful of stock. There should be very little liquid free in the pan when you add more stock. Toward the beginning of cooking, you will need to add stock fairly frequently; the frequency will decrease over time.
7. The risotto is done when the grains of rice are slightly al dente in the center and takes several minutes to absorb the last ladleful of stock. This will take about 18-22 minutes. If you run out of hot stock before the risotto is done (which can happen if the liquid evaporates quickly), add simmering water instead of more stock.
8. The final consistency of the risotto is up to you. We like it less creamy, so we pull it off the heat toward the end of the last ladle’s absorption. If you like it more liquidy, pull it sooner (The Italians call this thinner style “al onde,” which means “like waves”).
9. Off the heat, mix in the grated parmesan and serve. If you want to gild the lily, add a bit more grated parmesan to the top and serve!