A creamy Italian rice dish, risotto derives its texture from rice starch that gets coaxed by constant stirring during cooking. Risotto is a versatile dish as it can include meat or it can be a vegetarian dish. The broth can be chicken, meat or fish broth.
In the Venice episode of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain sampled the famous go risotto—a Venetian classic famous and revered for its simplicity and unpretentiousness.
“Go” refers to a variety of fish called, well… go. Small fish. Not expensive, not rare but, in fact, rather common. The fish are simmered whole without stirring and the broth is ladled into the rice. No fish meat goes into the risotto as the only role of the fish is to create the broth. The dish is reputedly incomparable.
Cooking risotto starts with choosing the right kind of rice. See, what distinguishes risotto from other rice dishes is its creamy texture and that is something that can be acquired with the use of starchy rice.
The Italians cook risotto with the short-grain arborio rice. The name arborio does not really refer to a rice variety but, rather, to a place in Italy where the rice is grown. In short, outside of Italy, it is known by other names. In Asia, the nearest equivalent is Japanese rice.
Make easy tasty risotto at home. It’s not hard at all! Below is a step-by-step guide for cooking basic risotto ai bianco, literally, white rice done by my husband, Speedy.
There are only a few steps in cooking the basic risotto. But even before you start, make sure that your broth is simmering—not boiling, not warm, not lukewarm, not cool. You want it simmering.
The first step is sautéing — garlic and onions, most often, in butter or olive oil or both, until fragrant.
The rice is added and cooked until every grain is coated with oil. White wine is poured and stirred in and the mixture is left to bubble until the wine has been absorbed. Then, the simmering broth is ladled into the rice, about half a cup each time.
The rice is stirred often as it cooks in the broth, coaxing the starch out of each grain to make the mixture creamy. Then, another half cup of broth is added, the rice is stirred… the process is repeated until the rice is done — cooked through but still firm.
Grated parmesan cheese is stirred in along with a little finely chopped parsley, the seasonings are adjusted and the risotto is drizzled with olive oil before serving the risotto ai bianco.
Now, if you want something beyond basic risotto, try the following recipe.
Risotto with Prosciutto di Parma
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 6 to 8 button mushrooms - quartered
- 6 to 8 asparagus spears - trimmed and cut into two-inch lengths
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- ⅓ cup onion - chopped
- ½ cup bell peppers - diced
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 ½ cups arborio rice - if unavailable, Japanese rice is a good substitute
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- bone broth - keep it simmering in another pot
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan - plus more to garnish
- ¼ cup chopped parsley - plus more to garnish
- 6 slices prosciutto di Parma
- Heat the butter in a pan. Saute the mushrooms and asparagus with a little salt and pepper just until cooked. Scoop out and transfer to a plate.
- Add the olive oil to the remaining butter in the pan. Saute the onion, garlic and bell peppers with salt and pepper for about a minute.
- Add the rice and paprika, stir well to coat every grain with oil.
- Pour in the wine. Stir. Allow to boil, uncovered, until most of the wine has been absorbed by the rice.
- Ladle in a cup of simmering meat broth, stirring the rice until the liquid has been absorbed.
- Add another half a cup of broth stirring until the rice has absorbed most of it.
- Season with salt and pepper as you cook, tasting occasionally.
- Repeat until the rice is done. The level of doneness is such that when biting a grain, there should be the slightest resistance at the center. In pasta lingo, it’s al dente.
- Stir in the Parmesan and parsley.
- To assemble, ladle the risotto into shallow bowls. Scatter the sautéed mushrooms and asparagus around the mound of rice. Top with a slice of prosciutto di Parma. Garnish with more grated Parmesan and parsley.