Risotto is a traditional Italian dish that has been upgraded from being served as a rustic family meal to gracing the tables of fine-dining Italian restaurants all around the world. Despite its reputation for being fussy and time consuming, risotto is essentially easy to make. Coincidentally, it’s also very easy to mess up! Common mistakes could turn your culinary masterpiece into a heavy, mushy mess on your plate. With these easy tips you can learn how to make the perfect risotto in the comfort of your own home.
I cannot deny the fact that overindulging in a plate of rich and creamy risotto in an elegant Italian restaurant sounds appealing however, I’ve known risotto all my life – before it was pretentious and expensive, so I’d much prefer a delicious and rustic homemade version. Risotto doesn’t necessarily take skill, but more so attention to detail. There’s a certain degree of satisfaction involved once you’ve mastered this not-as-difficult-as-it-may-seem-recipe, and once you’ve mastered it, you’ll keep wanting to make it, creating unique flavour combinations every time.
First and foremost, the key to a perfect risotto starts with short-grain arborio rice, which is the most commonly available variety. Short-grain rice contains a specific type of starch that easily breaks down when cooked, thus giving risotto its traditional creamy texture.
Secondly, when it comes to flavour, good quality ingredients-fresh, homemade broth, good quality extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh herbs and spices-can make or break a risotto. Be sure to use flavourful, fresh ingredients and seasonal vegetables, when available.
Thirdly, traditional risotto should be rich, creamy, and somewhat soupy. The best I can describe the degree of ‘soupiness’ is that the risotto should almost spread out slowly like a pool of honey once dolloped onto the plate. Having said that, the perfect risotto consistency has always been debatable-some like it soupy, some prefer it less creamy and more compact. I prefer the latter, but consistency preference is all subjective, so prepare it according to your tastes.
Learn how to make perfect risotto with these helpful hints and tips:
- Add warmed or hot broth: Cold broth will cool down the rice and prolong the cooking time. Keep the broth at a simmer in a separate small pot on the stove.
- Stir the rice at five-minute intervals: Over-stirring will add air to the risotto, which will cool it down and result in a sticky risotto. Not stirring enough will result in the rice sticking to the pan and burning.
- Add broth a little at a time: Slowly add the broth (about 3–4 cups of broth per 1 cup of rice), 1-2 ladles a at time, stirring each time. Adding too much broth will result in a soupy risotto and will prevent the starches in the rice from creating that creamy consistency.
- Do not overcook the rice: The rice should be al dente, meaning cooked on the outside and with a slight bite on the inside. Risotto should be creamy and light, not mushy and starchy.
- Cooking temperature: Cook at a medium to low simmer in order to avoid burning the rice or prolonging the cooking process.
- Cook the vegetables separately: Except for the mirepoix (onions, celery, and carrots), you should add cooked vegetables a few minutes before the rice is done, to ensure they do not lose their flavour or texture. Alternatively, if you prefer the flavour and texture of caramelized veggies, you can saute them in the frying pan first, remove when cooked, then mix with the rice a few minutes before the the risotto is ready.
This Shrimp Sweet Pea Pesto Risotto is elegant enough for a swanky dinner party and simple enough for a weeknight comfort food. The traditional risotto base is laced with creamy, nutty pesto, which is an ideal match for the crunchy peas and fresh shrimp.
Still not comfortable with making the traditional version? Thankfully, there are a variety of methods you can use to prepare a knock-off risotto. These easy risottos are made by combining pre-cooked rice with the freshly prepared condiments. Be sure to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil to add richness and always garnish with a healthy dose of Parmesan cheese!
What’s your favourite risotto dish? Do you make traditional risotto, or do you prefer knock-off recipes?