Risotto

Risotto is one of my favorite dishes.  It is the perfect example of Italian cooking.  Simple ingredients put together with good technique to create an amazing meal.   It is always rich and creamy with endless tweaks to make it different or better.  I am going to give a few recipes below, but the main thing is the TECHNIQUE.  YOU CANNOT MAKE A GOOD RISOTTO WITH BAD TECHNIQUE.  On the other hand, it is almost impossible to make a bad risotto if you use good technique.

Before I present the recipe let me make a few statements.  You CANNOT make a risotto with long grain rice.  It is impossible.  YOU MUST use SHORT GRAINED RICE with a high starch content!  Arborio is traditional, and fairly expensive  Another variety called Carnaroli works better than Arborio but is even more expensive.  I have heard of Padano, Roma, and Vialone Nano but I have never seen them in the store.  Here is my secret… I actually find that calrose rice works better.  It is cheap too!

The other tip I will give you is on using saffron.  If you use saffron (for risotto Milanese), you  have to “open” it up.  That means putting it in in your broth over low heat for an hour or two before you start.  If you use powdered saffron, you do not have to do this.

Heat the broth and saffron for an hour before use.

Heat the broth and saffron for an hour before use.

The first recipe is for Risotto Milanese.

Risotto Milanese

Ingredients

3 cups of Calrose Rice (or others)

1 medium onion chopped

3 cloves of garlic (left whole)

3/4 cup of grated grana padano (or your favorite hard cheese)

8 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

3/4 teaspoon of saffron

1 pinch of salt

1/4 cup of olive oil (or an additional 4 tablespoons of butter)

4 tablespoons of butter

Technique

1 hour before you start cooking the rice, heat up the broth and saffron in a pot on the stove to “open” the saffron.  It should be hot, but it does not need to boil.

Coat the bottom of a second pot in good olive oil (butter is more traditional  here, but I try to save a few calories if I can).  Add the onions and a pinch of salt and let them sweat.  After two or three minutes, add the whole garlic cloves as well.  Let the onions turn translucent and the garlic soften.

Now, remove the garlic (this is a northern dish) and add the rice.  Stir it well to coat it with oil.  Let it cook for a minute or two while you stir it.  At this point, add one ladle full of the warm broth to the rice and stir it in until it is absorbed.  Once the liquid has been absorbed, continue to add broth to the rice, a cupfull at a time stirring frequently.  THIS IS WHAT GIVES RISOTTO ITS CREAMY TEXTURE!  If you just pour in all the liquid and let it cook, you will just get rice cooked in broth.  You must add it slowly and stir to get the right consistency.

Once the rice is al dente (don’t overcook the rice), add your cheese.  Stir it in until it melts. Once the cheese has been melted, finish the risotto with four tablespoons of butter.  This is the final touch and will make it silky and creamy.  The whole thing takes about thirty minutes to prepare once you start adding the broth to the rice.

Variations

Jackie’s Risotto

Omit the saffron.

Alter liquid to include 2 cups of tomato sauce.

Add one pound of cooked italian sausage

White Risotto

Omit the saffron

Add one pound of sweet italian sausage (usually the sautissa)

There are a myriad of other variations including Risotto with Barolo wine and even one using strawberries, vegetable broth and heavy cream.


2 thoughts on “Risotto

  1. Kukuho Rose, a “sushi rice” from California, works very well and adds a rich flavor to the risotto.

    I add a half-cup of wine (red or white depending on what flavor risotto I am making) before the first cup of broth.

    My favorite risotto is with porcini and oyster mushrooms. Sometimes I add asparagus tips about 5-6 minutes before the end. Yum!

    Also for those who will be trying this for the first time, it is absolutely true that technique is essential for a good risotto. Add just enough broth to cover the rice, then stir gently until the point where the risotto no longer fills a line drawn through the middle of the pan with a wooden spoon. Don’t wait ’till the rice is too dry, but don’t rush.

    • Our family usually had a risotto with my family’s sautissa sausage and some tomato sauce as a base. It is still my favorite. My grandfather also made salam d’ la duja, (salami sotto grasso), which I have heard is an ingredient in a traditional risotto from Novara called Panissa that also has borlotti beans. I have not eaten it and I do not know if my family historically made Panissa. If they did, they did not continue the tradition. Hmmmm, maybe my next experiment will be to make risotto panissa.

Ciao!