Make Your Best-Ever Risotto with These Four Tips
Creamy risotto is one of the ultimate comfort foods. Whether you prefer it unadorned or like to mix in seasonal vegetables such as cremini mushrooms, asparagus, or butternut squash, this simple Italian dish can be mastered at home. While risotto has a reputation for being time-consuming and difficult to perfect, we're here to tell you that neither of those things are true. These four tips will make you say, "that's amore!"
Choosing the Right Type of Rice
There are three kinds of traditional risotto rice—arborio, carnaroli, and Vialone Nano—all of which hail from northern Italy and have a high starch content, which will help to create risotto's signature creamy consistency. Arborio rice is the easiest variety to find in grocery stores, but all three varieties will create a delicious dish. Before adding any liquid to your rice, sauté the rice in a few tablespoons of olive oil or butter in a hot skillet. This will bring out some nutty flavors in your rice as it toasts.
Using Hot Stock
Adding hot liquid—whether it be vegetable stock or chicken stock—to the toasted rice helps to slowly release the starches from the rice and cook it evenly. Add only ½ cup to one cup of liquid at a time, which will prevent the starches from being released all at once. Only ladle in more stock once the rice has fully absorbed all of the liquid in the pan. Repeat this until the rice is creamy and al dente (you may not need all of the stock called for).
The Proper Technique
Making risotto is different than cooking long-grain rice. Although it's no more time-consuming than preparing regular rice, it does require more hands-on cooking. When cooking risotto, stir frequently but not constantly. Over-stirring can cause too much of the starch to be released at one time, whereas not stirring enough can cause the rice to stick to the bottom of the pan. Keep the pan over medium heat to encourage the starches to release slowly.
The Final Touch
Whether you're making simple risotto or shellfish risotto, such as Saffron Risotto with Shrimp and Peas, add ½ cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano at the very end of the cooking process. This not only amps up the creaminess of the dish, but it adds a salty, umami flavor. Season the risotto to taste with more salt, plus fresh herbs, lemon zest or juice, and butter if you please.