How to Make the Perfect Risotto

by Boon and Boys

I was always intimidated by risotto.  I had heard it was both hard to make and easy to ruin.  I didn't trust my cooking skills for a long time, but decided to give it a go relatively recently and have since made it many times with great success!

It's all in the technique.  It's not hard, but it's attention and time consuming.  It's definitely not a dish I can make easily with Henry in my arms.  Even stopping time to photograph the process wasn't ideal (I'll explain why below), and, of course, on top of it, Henry was insisting on breastfeeding while I made it this time.  All in all it resulted in the worst of all my attempts, but luckily it still turned out pretty good.

The main thing you need to know is that you will be stirring consistently for about 20 minutes.  And when I say consistently, I mean consistently.  You need to keep stirring to prevent burning, but also to give the risotto it's creamy texture.  I don't know the science behind it, but something about stirring gives the rice a creamy consistency.  Just trust me on this one.

Like I said before, it's all about the technique.  As a result, I only measure out the rice, nothing else.  Most recipes will tell you to measure our the broth.  I don't do this.  Rather, I base it on the way the rice looks and when it is done cooking.  Don't worry, I'll explain it all.

I also don't heat the broth like most recipes call for.  I do, however, always use room temperature, not refrigerated, broth.

As far as toppings go, you can do whatever you like.  Last time I made it was the first time I added some white wine vinegar.  My husband said it was his favorite so far.  Not sure if it was because of this addition, but it's also supposed to give the risotto an extra bit of creaminess.  I always mix in a bunch of Parmesan cheese right before it is done cooking.  My husband likes his with pesto and peas.  I eat mine plain or add some veggies in it.

So, here we go...

Before you get started, make sure you have everything you need nearby.  I use a wooden spoon to stir.  Have your rice measured out and your vegetable broth open and ready.  Also, have the Parmesan cheese and white wine vinegar (if you are using these) nearby.

First I put some butter (about 1 Tbs), olive oil (approximately 2 Tbs), garlic (around 1 Tbs), and chopped onion (about 1/4 to 1/3 of an onion) in a saucepan over medium heat.  I cook them until the onions and garlic start to soften and brown (a couple minutes, don't worry too much about this step.  They'll be cooking for a while so they'll soften and you won't even notice the onion once the risotto is done).

Next, I add a cup of arborio rice.  Here's where the stirring begins.  Pour the rice into the saucepan and stir it for two minutes.  This process is called "toasting" the rice.  I never notice a change in color, but it prepares the rice for absorbing the broth.

After the toasting process you make your first addition of broth.  I use enough to almost coat the rice.  It's probably around 1/2 a cup to a cup.  The rice shouldn't be swimming in the broth.  Make sure you are still stirring.  Again, don't stop stirring!  Just stir until the broth is almost all absorbed.  How I decide to add more is when I don't see any broth, but the rice doesn't look dry.  Remember, you don't want it to burn.

Now I start adding less broth with each addition (and as a result I'm adding it more frequently).  These additions are around 1/4 a cup.  Again, still stirring and continuing to add vegetable broth.

At the 20 minute mark (including the 2 minutes of toasting) I start tasting the risotto to see if it is done.  You don't want it to be mushy, but it also shouldn't taste undercooked (undercooked will taste like you are eating raw rice).  When you feel like you are right on the edge of it being "just right," add a tiny splash (around 1/2 teaspoon) white wine vinegar and as much Parmesan cheese as you like (I would guess that I add around 1/4 a cup).  You are still stirring here.  Once they are mixed in, I removed the risotto from heat and serve.

For mine, I serve it as is, with some more Parmesan cheese and maybe some added veggies.  For my husband's, I mix in pesto and peas and top with Parmesan.  One cup of (uncooked) rice serves us both without leftovers.  If you have a smaller appetite that I do then it may serve more people (most recipes and serving sizes say a cup is for four people, but I would definitely still be hungry if I halved my portion).