Risotto is an Italian rice dish. It is made by briefly sautéing the rice in olive oil or butter (often with some onion), then adding a little bit of stock, stirring almost constantly until the rice absorbs the stock, then adding a bit more stock, stirring, adding, stirring, adding until it’s done. It usually takes between 20 and 30 minutes of stirring. When it’s done, the rice is cooked through and bound in a wonderful creamy sauce that is made as the starch leaches out of the rice grains and combines with the stock.
Risotto is best made with short- and medium-grain rice, which tends to be stickier than long-grain rice varieties. Three varieties are best suited to making risotto: Arborio, Carnaroli and Vialone Nano. These produce the creamiest results. Of the three, Arborio is the only one that is pretty widely available in grocery stores in this country. It really is worth it to seek out one of these three varieties to make risotto – especially if it’s your first time!
A good risotto is an absolutely heavenly dish, although we’ve made one or two that wouldn’t come anywhere near the Pearly Gates. There are countless versions of risotto – vegetable risottos (asparagus, artichoke, eggplant, fennel, wild mushroom, onion, spring vegetables, etc.), fish risottos (prawns, mussels, squid, smoked salmon, tuna), meat & poultry risottos, (chicken; bean, sausage & bacon; Easter Lamb Risotto), all kinds of cheese risottos, and exotic yet still classic dishes, such as Rose Petal Risotto, Champagne Risotto, Risotto with Zucchini Flowers, Lobster Risotto and, certainly a show-stopper, Risotto with White Truffles.
Probably the most well-known is the Risotto Milanese, a rich risotto flavored with saffron. We were smitten recently with a not-very-expensive cookbook that promises The Top One Hundred Italian Rice Dishes [See review]. About half of the recipes are risottos, and the ones we tried were just outstanding.