Risotto is one of the most amazing dishes known to man. It is a simple combination of butter, stock and rice, which when properly prepared rises to an art form.
Many people do not know this, but in Italy rice is raised in the north in two main areas, the Piemonte (think Milan and Turin) and the Veneto, which is the area of Venice.
The north of Italy has always been more of a rice centric region while the south was more of a pasta centric region.
While not complicated to make, for an authentic risotto, the ingredients and cooking process must be followed carefully. I have seen many variations on this theme, but a basic recipe is a good place to start.
There are a few things you must remember to make a good risotto:
Only use true Italian Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice, other rice just doesn’t give equal results. If you’re in a pinch, medium grain rice will give you vastly superior results to long grain rice, but it's not quite the same. These rices can be purchased in most grocery stores, but can also be ordered online.
Use weak stock, as the constant cycle of reducing will concentrate the flavor. I prefer stock at about one quarter strength. You don’t want to use a stock with garlic in it, as you will be reducing this stock down and thus any predominant flavor will definitely over power the final dish.
Always have bit more stock than you think you’ll need simmering beside you. If you run out of broth, just substitute some warm water.
Make sure that the stock is handy to the cooking area, and simmering before you start. If your right handed, keep the simmering stock to your right, and if your left handed vice versa.
Note: Once you begin the risotto, keep stirring. Now is not a good time to be distracted, as it will burn or scorch very quickly.
This is the mother recipe for most risottos, and is the basic one that allows you to create the many variations.
4 to 6 cups of weak Vegetable or meat based stock
3 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil, don’t use extra virgin olive oil as the flavor is too strong
2 cups Arborio Rice
4 Tbsp. finely chopped white Onion.
½ cup Parmesan Reggiano
First begin by melting 2 Tbsp. of the butter and all of the oil in a heavy saucepan. Then sauté the onion until it becomes clear. Do not let it brown.
Using medium heat, add the rice and stirring constantly, sauté it for 1 min. until it is completely coated with the oil and butter mixture.
Using a ladle, start adding in the simmering stock, ½ to ¾ cup at a time. Stir constantly until the stock is absorbed and then add more.
Continue the cycle until the rice is soft but still “al dente” Normally about 20 minutes, maybe more depending on the rice and temperature.
Now, turn off the heat, add the rest of the butter, the Parmesan cheese and then salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.
Serve in individual shallow bowls and serve immediately. Risotto should not sit around until the other food is ready. Serve it as soon as it is finished. You may add additional cheese at the table.
Note: It makes a perfect secondi (pasta/rice) course prior to a main dish.