How to make a perfect risotto

I’m going to let you in on a secret. You do not need to stand over a hot stove for forty-five minutes while dutifully scraping the bottom of a pot with a wooden spoon to make a perfect risotto.

I’m not sure who came up with this cruel myth. Somebody trying to get more credit for dinner than necessary by toiling away over a hot stove? There is no need to toil over a risotto.

As I was taught in Italian cooking school by an Italian chef, you can make a perfect risotto by adding a lot of hot water or broth all at once. It takes time, yes, but time you can spend doing something more fun than scraping the bottom of a pot.

I will confess that it is not an exact science and that I do not add an exact measure of water. But I do add a good deal and let it simmer away on the stove all by itself.

Here are five rules for making a perfect risotto.

  1. Add a good deal of water or broth all at once. It will be starchy enough, don’t worry.
  2. You do not need broth. Water will do. You can also make a quick broth by simmering vegetables and fruit in water if you really want a broth.
  3. Always toast the rice before adding the liquids.
  4. A proper risotto is always creamy. This is known as mantecatura and you achieve this by gently adding fat after the risotto has finished cooking. To do this, once the risotto is fully cooked, remove it from the heat, and gently stir in some butter and grated cheese. You can add a little water or broth if it becomes too dry. Depending on the flavor of risotto, you can also choose to use just butter or just cheese, or even just olive oil.
  5. Let it rest. When I interned in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Rome, the oyster risotto was my favorite item on the menu and it always rested for exactly four minutes before being plated. We used a timer.

FYI, Acquerello is my favorite brand of rice for risotto and it is also the one that we always used in the Michelin-starred restaurant in Rome.

Basic risotto

Serves 2

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup (200 grams) of arborio, vialone nano, or carnaroli rice
  • Hot water or broth
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Optional: 1/2 cup of white wine
  1. Cook the onion in fat over medium heat until it is soft and translucent. You can use butter and olive oil or one or the other.
  2. Turn up the heat and add the rice and toast it.
  3. Add the wine if using, and cook until it mostly evaporates.
  4. Add a good deal of hot water or hot broth, season with salt, and then turn down the heat and simmer until al dente. Add more hot water or hot broth if necessary.
  5. Remove from the heat and gently stir in some butter and cheese. Add some more hot water or broth if it is too dry.
  6. Let the risotto rest for at least four minutes before plating.

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