Risotto for Rookies – 9 Tips to Get it Perfectly Cooked
Everybody loves a good risotto.
It’s a rich, creamy, and hearty treat that features the season’s best produce, fragrant herbs, covered in decadent, silky-smooth Parmesan cheese that fills the soul up like no other Italian (or rice-based, for that matter) dish can.
For many of us, it’s a rare, glorious treat that we enjoy only at the trattorias and restaurants that do it right – simply because it’s too easy to screw up.
Ask any Italian you know: they will tell you that no one ever gets it right.
The same is true for even the most experienced home cooks. Risotto has gained a reputation for being a dish that’s time-consuming and tedious to prepare.
It involves a lot of stirring, standing at the stove, and stirring some more. Many of us just don’t have the time to do it.
But master the art of cooking risotto well, and you’re a welcome guest at any party and potluck – as well as be a hero at home.
Fortune favors the brave, and that’s why we’re here: in search of a better way to make risotto.
Which leaves us the $64,000 question for those of us who are just about to try making their first risotto: how do we do it the right way?
Well, it’s not as intimidating as it looks.
With a few ingenious, crafty tricks, you may just find yourself making the best risotto you never thought you could make – or at least be well on your way to developing your own style at cooking this time-tested Italian delight that is sure to delight every palate your own version comes across.
After all, nothing’s better than your own cooking – especially your own risotto you can be proud of.
1. Start with a basic recipe
There’s always that temptation to start with a fancy risotto recipe. After all, why not? If you’re going to try, might as well shoot for the moon, right?
Well, if you’re a complete beginner or novice to the art and style of cooking proper risotto, starting off with the basic building blocks of risotto may be a better idea – the combination of olive oil, proper chicken stock, and Parmesan cheese never fails.
2. Know what texture works for you
Texture is always relative, and it’s helpful to know what kind you want in advance.
Just know that there are versions that could vary from a thin, soup-like consistency to more robust, creamier styles – even in Italy!
3. Use the right kind of rice
You’ll want to use short-grain rice for your risotto dishes – particularly due to its starch content, the way it absorbs less liquid, and the way it cooks.
While you could always use long-grain or brown rice, you’ll get the best results with a short-grain variety like Carnaroli or Arborio.
PROTIP: Do not wash or rinse the rice beforehand in order not to lose the starch.
4. Keep an eye on it
Cooking risotto the right way (e.g., without burning the rice or cooking it into mush) requires you to keep a close eye on the temperature and the amount of time you cook it. You’ll want a gentle simmer, instead of boiling.
Most people will want to try to cook it al dente, but a more prudent approach for beginners is to slightly overcook it – you don’t want an unpalatable, crunchy consistency, and neither would you like cooked to mush.
PROTIP: In a rush? Don’t have the time or patience to cook? Consider making risotto with an Instapot or any other electric multipurpose cooker – it just takes 5 minutes, and requires no stirring at all. There are plenty of excellent risotto recipes that you can do with a pressure cooker in a pinch.
5. Use the right kind of liquid
The liquid makes the risotto. After all, that’s where the flavor is. You’ll want a flavorful broth that brings out the best flavors of the rice.
Regardless of what liquid you choose to use, make sure it’s hot. Nothing ruins risotto like a cold liquid will.
PROTIP: It’s always better to err on the side of preparedness, so add several cups of stock beyond what the recipe you follow says. You don’t want to be short on the liquids department.
6. Little by little does the trick
Be careful with how you add the broth – too much too fast will boil the rice instead of getting that delicious, creamy consistency all good risotto dishes possess.
Begin with a half or three-fourths cup of broth to begin, then use just a half to a quarter-cup of broth the rest of the way.
7. Stir it up – gently
But here’s what most of us get wrong about risotto: the stirring. Contrary to popular belief, risotto doesn’t require constant stirring.
Stirring releases the starch that makes risotto creamy, so overdoing it will leave the rice with a glue-like consistency. On the other hand, doing it too infrequently or not doing it all will burn the rice.
Best solution? Stir it just enough, and stir it gently.
8. Save the veg for last
Many a risotto has been ruined by cooking the vegetables along with the rice. Cook your vegetables separately and add them only just before the rice is done, so they don’t dissolve into unsavory pulp.
The only way you’ll be able to make consistently great risotto is by practicing – make sure to get your reps in so you know exactly what approach works for you.
Make it a goal to add risotto in your list of specialties, serve it with matching side dishes and never stop improving.
Make it a commitment. Before you know it, you’ll be making risotto that will have people wanting for more.