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How to make the perfect Risotto

Risotto is Italy’s signature rice dish, a favorite first course. It can complement an endless variety of flavors and mix with almost any other ingredient much like its starchy cousin, pasta. Risotto is one of the most adaptable Italian food yet few people know how to make it or take the time to try it.

In Europe rice is cultivated in Italy’s Po Valley. Though we generally associate Italy with pasta, rice has been there since the Middle Ages. Historians usually give credit to the Spanish for bringing the short-grained rice called Arborio to the Po Valley in the 14th Century: Lombardia (arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano), Piemonte (arborio, roma, carnaroli , baldo) and Veneto (vialone nano).

Types of rice: Carnaroli, Arborio and Vialone Nano


Carnaroli – king of rices – is a medium-grain rice, which is traditionally used for making risotto. Its higher starch content, firmer texture and its longer grain are the differences to the more common arborio rice. Carnaroli rice is the hardest and longest to cook but it keeps its shape better during the slow cooking process required for making risotto. This is why many restaurants use it.

Arborio rice - an Italian short-grain rice - is named after the town of Arborio, where it is grown. When cooked, the rounded grains are firm, creamy and chewy. It has a starchy taste but blends well with other flavors.

Vialone nano is starchier and makes a heavier, creamier risotto. The downside of vialone nano is that it goes from al dente to overcooked in a short time.


General advice before starting

Typically, Risotto needs a heavy pot, high-starch rice and gradual cooking. Ideal cooking time is 20 minutes.

Use rice labelled arborio, vialone nano, or carnaroli. My suggestion is arborio, since it is easy to find and the easiest to work with. Choose a heavy pot with thick bottom and sides, that help distribute the heat evenly. A wooden spoon is best for stirring as it is gentler on the rice.


As flavor base add onion or garlic early, along with any other raw ingredients that require long cooking, ensuring that their flavor will blend well with the rice.


Very important step: Toast the rice in melted butter. This keeps the rice from getting mushy since it creates a shell around each grain, functioning as a protective layer against getting soggy.


Add white wine for a touch of acidity and deeper flavor. It is vital that you add the wine before adding the hot stock, because the direct contact with the hot pot will burn off the alcohol, leaving only the wine’s faint flavor. Use a simple, dry white wine.


Hot stock is crucial for a creamy risotto, it serves as the melding agent. Use aromatic, unsalted stock. It should not be too concentrated or flavorful.

Have the simmering stock pot close to the risotto pot and add small batches (adding all liquid at once would be like boiling the rice – we do not want that!). Rice loves to soak up liquid. It is the gradual addition of stock and slow cooking that gives you the creamy result. Constant stirring isn’t needed. Just check every few minutes, add more stock, and stir to keep it from sticking to the pot.


When the risotto has almost doubled in volume, it is ready (the golden 20 minutes). Take a bite, it should be chewy, not too soft. Another way of testing its consistency is to spoon a little into a bowl and shake it. The risotto should spread out, if it stands still, it is too dry. Add a bit more stock and wait a few seconds (off the heat).



Here are my two favorite Risotto recipes:

Risotto Asparagus and Saffron


Ingredients for 4 portions

360g risotto Carnaroli


Risotto cooking process

20g shallots cut in small dice

1pc bay leaf

40g white wine sauvignon

0.7g saffron

1.100g chicken broth

10g butter


Finishing step of the Risotto

80g butter

5g olive oil extra virgin

40g white wine Sauvignon

50g grated parmesan cheese (16-18 month aged)


Asparagus

200g green asparagus

10g butter

1pc fresh thyme

Sea Salt

Lemon jus


Asparagus method of cooking

Peel asparagus, wash well in cold water.

Blanche in abundant hot water with salt and lemon jus for three minutes.

After straining cut in long strips and toss for a minute in a sauté pan with some butter and salt.


Risotto method

This procedure takes approximately 20 minutes:

In a risotto casserole, add shallots, butter and bay leaf, stir on a slow flame till it is braised.

Add the risotto and stir on a slow flame for a couple of minutes, at this point add the white wine and reduce almost all.

Cover the risotto with enough hot chicken broth and stir until the liquid is almost reduced.

In the next step add the saffron and cover the risotto again with enough hot chicken broth and stir until the liquid is almost reduced. Continue this procedure until the risotto is well cooked (as mentioned before it will take approximately 20 minutes).

When the risotto is cooked well, take it off the heat and give it some time to cool down, approximately 2 minutes. Add butter, the grated Parmesan cheese, the olive oil and stir it fast for 30 seconds. As soon as the risotto is creamy, shiny and soft, serve it on a flat main course plate. Add the green asparagus (already stirred in a sauce pan with little butter and salt).



Black Ink Risotto with Broccoli


Ingredients for 4 portions

360g risotto Carnaroli

10ml olive oil


Risotto cooking process

20g shallots cut in small dice

10g butter

1pc bay leaf

40g white wine Sauvignon

1.100g vegetable broth


Finishing step of the risotto

80ml olive oil extra virgin

40g white wine Sauvignon


Cuttlefish and black ink sauce

250g cuttlefish clean, cut in dice

Black ink

10g white wine

1pc minced garlic

1pc fresh thyme

15g green onion cut in small rings

15g diced green celery

10g fresh chopped parsley

50g fresh tomato jus

½ pc fresh chilli pepper

Vegetable broth

30ml olive oil

Sea salt

Black pepper


Cuttlefish cooking method

Step number one is to mix the black ink together with the white wine in a mixer.

Add all below listed vegetables in a casserole and braise well. After 5 minutes add the black ink, the tomato jus and the vegetable broth and cook all together for 20 minutes, adjust salt, pepper and density of the sauce.

1pc minced garlic

1pc fresh thyme

15g green onion cut in small rings

15g diced green celery

10g fresh chopped parsley

½ pc fresh chili pepper

30ml olive oil


For the green broccoli

200g broccoli

10g butter

20ml olive oil

1pc garlic minced

½ fresh lemon jus

Sea salt


Green broccoli cooking method

Wash well in cold water.

Blanch in abundant hot water with salt and lemon jus for three minutes.

After straining toss for a minute in a sauté pan with the minced garlic, lemon jus and finish with salt, black pepper and fresh chilly chopped thinly.


Risotto method

This procedure takes approximately 20 minutes:

In a risotto casserole, add shallots, butter and bay leaf, stir on a slow flame till it is braised.

Add the risotto and stir on a slow flame for a couple of minutes, at this point add the white wine and reduce almost all.

Cover the risotto with enough hot vegetable broth and stir until the liquid is almost reduced.

In the next step add the cuttlefish sauce and cover the risotto again with enough hot vegetable broth and stir until the liquid is almost reduced. Continue this procedure until the risotto is well cooked.

Take it off the heat and give it some time to cool down, approximately 2 minutes.

Add the olive oil and stir it fast for 30 seconds. As soon as the risotto is creamy, shiny and soft, serve it on a large flat main course plate. Add the green broccoli (already stirred in a sauce pan) and serve.


Buon appetito!


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