See also rice.
This classic Northern Italian specialty is made by sautéing rice (traditionally Arborio or carnaroli) and chopped onions in butter and then gradually adding hot stock. A true labor of love, risotto must be constantly stirred as it cooks, with the stock being added 1/2 cup at a time as it's absorbed. When properly cooked, risotto is wonderfully creamy, but the grains are still separate and slightly al dente.
There are hundreds of variations to the basic risotto preparation. The dish may be flavored with different broths (chicken, beef, vegetable) and wines, as well as scrumptious combinations of meats, shellfish, vegetables, cheeses and herbs. Classic recipes include Risotto al Barolo, made with fine Barolo wine from the Piemonte area, and the famous Risotto alla Milanese, which is flavored with saffron and traditionally served alongside osso bucco.
The invention of Risotto alla Milanese goes back to 1574, when the Gothic cathedral Duomo di Milano was being built. According to legend, a young apprentice by the name of Valerius was in charge of staining the decorated glass for the windows. He was known for using saffron to brighten his paint pigments and was constantly teased for it.
Tired of the razzing, Valerius decided to return the joke by adding saffron to a pot of rice to be served at his master's wedding party. The rice turned out so good that the guests exclaimed, "rissus optimus!" (Latin for "excellent rice"). The recipe immediately spread throughout the city and the name was later shortened to "risotto."
- Don't rinse your rice before cooking. The grain's starch is essential to the recipe.
- Use a large, heavy-bottomed pan to ensure uniform cooking.
- Use a good homemade stock, and keep it simmering on a separate burner.
- If using part wine, make it the first liquid you stir in so the flavor will be fully absorbed.
- Sauté ingredients such as mushrooms and peppers until just barely done. Then stir into the risotto a few minutes before serving.
- Risotto may be served as a first course or a main course on its own.
- Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan or shaved Asiago.
Try one of our favorite risotto recipes:
Prosciutto Gorgonzola Risotto