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Risotto...where to start?

My un-foodie husband has now watched Hell's Kitchen enough that Risotto has caught his attention. As he's colorblind, the pea risotto even looks good to him and he's asking why I don't make Risotto at home.
Well....I did buy arborio rice a couple of months ago. But I can't get enthused at the cooking time (see the Chowhound wild mushroom risotto recipe for a way to kill well
over an hour at a hot stove top in summer.)
Is Risotto made with chicken stock and little else as boring as it sounds?

(I think the lobster risotto last night is what he really, really wants.)

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  1. 1) Stop watching that show. Ugh.
    2) Risotto is labor intensive, but the end product is worth it. Add a minced shallot in the beginning, reggiano and a dash of cream at the end, and even if you're using supermarket chicken stock it should turn out lovely.

    With the leftovers, mix in a beaten egg, roll into little balls, coat with breadcrumbs, deep fry until golden brown.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Darkcloud

      No cream! If you make risotto correctly with the right kind of rice it will be creamy enough on it's own. The starch from the rice provides that lovely texture. Cheese is great though, a must for good risotto.

      Love the idea about the leftovers!

      1. re: Darkcloud

        Don't forget to add a half inch cube of mozzarella to the center of your rice balls.

        1. re: Darkcloud

          Classic risotto Milanese, accompanied by a flute of cold Veuve Cliquot.

        2. There are so many variations on it, but realize that it really doesn't need more than an hour. That's not that bad! Your stock and cheese are very important. Another way to add excellent flavor is by caramelizing a good deal of onions or shallots at the beginning. Once they're soft and sweet, stir in your rice to coat the kernels. Deglaze with wine and then start adding your stock.

          Very important: make sure your stock is simmering as you add it, otherwise cold stock will lower the temperature of the risotto and ruin the texture.

          For add-ins, you've got mushrooms, asparagus, seafood, really any veggie...you can't go wrong.

          1. This might be helpful:


            And it really doesn't take an hour of cooking - I'd say more like 20 - 25 minutes at the most. My favorite is tomatoes, smoked mozzarella and basil.

            Oh - and I never put cream in mine - the process itself will make the risotto creamy.

            4 Replies
            1. re: MMRuth

              That combination sounds wonderful

              It usually takes me 20-20 mins to make enough for four. I use wine to deglaze and put the stock (mixed with a little sherry or marsala) on the stove to keep warm. If using dried mushrooms, I add the soaking liquid to the stock for extra flavour.

              My usual one is wild mushroom, fresh thyme, scallops and shrimp and I use equal parts clam juice and veggie stock.

              Lobster sounds wonderful too., especially with asparagus.....

              oh dear, supposed to be on a diet this week!

              1. re: Densible

                I usually add some chopped fresh tomatoes about half way through the cooking, then add the chopped or grated mozzarella and the basil when the risotto is done.

                1. re: Densible

                  Yes Densible, your are right, I don't recall taking an hour. Maybe for the entire process, but not the cooking rime. 30 minutes. A favorite is 3 mushroom and another asparagus and fresh peas. Think the recipes all were EPI. and they always turn out so good.

                2. re: MMRuth

                  once again MMRuth hits the nail on the head with the link to the other site.

                  this time of year jfood does not make as much risotto as in the colder months in CT. He likes the Organic Vegetable stock and chicken stock combos for the flavor and whatever else strikes his fancy.

                  The biggest part of the process is psychological. It ain't that hard. And jfood is not a constant stirrer. whenever he adds the next ladle of broth he stirs for a minute then let's it simmer. The end result is well worth the time.

                3. I don't have the recipe on hand (and won't be home tonight to find it), but search the recipe boards (epicurious, allrecipe, etc.) and find a "no stir" risotto. The receipe I have at home is made with yellow and green squash (or zucchini if you prefer) and white wine and shallots. Very yummy.

                  1. I made risotto for the first time a couple months ago. It's quite simple and it only takes about 25 minutes. I have made it with spinach, wild mushroom, asparagus, and just plain. It's always delicious. I use store-bought chicken broth with sauvignon blanc. As the others have said, make sure your chicken broth is simmering in another pot on the stove. And start with shallots or onions.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cecilia

                      yes, good advice about the simmering pot of broth. That is essential. I have made risotto several times and it is always worth it. One of my favorite winter risotto's is a Martha Stewart everyday recipe for Tomato and Sausage risotto. Absolutely wonderful, filling and very satisfying. I have no real problems reheating it for lunch for myself either. Not as great as freshly made, but still good the next day with some garlic bread and a caesar salad.

                      The first time I made risotto I had saved a recipe for months, finally bought the crawfish, etc. and began to cook. I did not realize that it was a recipe for 12!!! We literally invited several neighbors over to stand around and stir in 15 minute intervals, drink wine and join us for dinner. It turned out great, but apparently cooking larger amounts takes far longer. Duh! So glad no one else had plans that particular Friday night.

                      My favorite way to do risotto is to get everything all chopped, measured and lined up ahead of time. My husband and I then open a bottle of wine and I prop myself on a stool in front of the stove and we drink, talk and stir. We switch off every few minutes so no one is standing there the entire time. It makes for a very relaxing, satisfying experience. Just try that risotto!!! You are likely to be very pleased. Good luck!

                    2. shouldn't take quite an hour, but IMO it is more of a fall/winter thing.

                      "Plain" risotto, as stated, is better than you think. It is also "kicked up" (sorry for using the phrase but it does work" with minimal effort if you add safffron (risotto milanese.)

                      1. As others have said, it really doesn't take that long. Good restaurants make it to order. You can make a two-portion risotto in about 20 minutes. But you do have to be at the pan stirring and adding stock a little at a time.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sgwood415

                          a lot of restaurants also premake large batches of risotto and then, right before the last addition of stock, chill it or freeze it on large sheet pans. that way the risotto can be finished to order, or a basic onion and herb risotto can be taken either the sausage direction or the vegetable direction at the end. even very good restaurants do this, and i rec the method to home risotto makers-- next time just make a big batch of your fave, dish a couple of portions out and freeze, finish as usual for your meal. then you can have risotto later when you don't have time to cook, or you can whip it out to impress guests big-time.

                          i would like to say that i don't dig risotto as much in the summer months as i do on cool autumn days in front of the fire.

                        2. Really the important thing to remember is to start with your aromatics (onion, shallot, if using) and then add the rice to this -- it'll toast a little bit. Then you can add wine (I like sauvignon blanc the best for risottos). As other posters have said, keep your stock hot in another pot and ladle it in (I use vegetable or mushroom stock, as we're vegetarians). I agree with the other posters that you should never have to use cream since the process of stirring the arborio creates the creaminess. The total cooking time should be around 20-25 minutes. Depending on how soft you like your veggies, you can guage when to add them. We like zucchini added about 5 minutes before the end of cooking. Once the heat is off, we add fresh herbs (basil goes great with the zucchini) and a tablespoon of butter (it gives it a really nice finish). Then add your cheese while the heat is off (for the zucchini we like parmigiano reggiano). Because the stove is on for a 1/2 hour or so, it really isn't a summer recipe -- but it's a hearty dinner for the cooler months. Good luck!

                          1. Risotto made with chicken stock (not broth) is not boring at all.

                            Want to start basic? Do a risotto milanese with peas.
                            First get about 5-6 cups of good chicken stock (pref. homemade) simmering in a saucepan.
                            Use a heavy, wider than deep pan for your risotto (or at least as wide as it is deep, you don't want to be reaching into a stock pot or anything). Not a skillet, you want something with higher sides for sure.
                            Dice half an onion (or two shallots) and saute in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until they are translucent and soft. Watch your heat, you don't want to brown them at all, keep it at medium to medium low.
                            Then, add 1 1/2 cups of your choice of risotto rice (arborio, etc). Add a pinch of saffron and stir it all around until the rice is coated evenly with the oil. Let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
                            Add 1/2 cup white wine and stir around. At this point, move your heat up a bit, so your liquid that you add simmers. You want to see bubbles, but not boiling. When that liquid almost evaporates (you'll pull the spoon through the rice/liquid and a trail will be left behind for a few seconds), add about 3/4 cup of your hot stock (1 1/2 ladles in my house). Stir to combine. You don't have to stir constantly, just check it every few minutes. When you get the spoon trail again, add the same amount of stock and do the same as the previous step. Keep doing this (4-5 times), until you notice the rice is not taking up the liquid as quickly. Spoon a bit out and taste...your rice is probably soft on the outside and still a bit starchy inside.
                            Add another dose of stock, mix as previous and when it is mostly absorbed, taste again. Keep doing this until your rice is the right consistency...soft throughout but not mushy. You may need to top off your simmering stock with more stock or water...sometimes it takes me more than 6 cups, sometimes not. From the time you start adding stock to the finish, should take about 20 minutes.
                            When the rice is the proper consistency, turn off the heat. Add in 1 cup of thawed frozen peas, or fresh. Add 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (you can also use romano). Some people like to stir in a tablespoon of butter as well at this point, but it's not essential. Your rice should be suspended in a thick liquid, but not the consistency of a soup and not dry.
                            Taste your rice. Does it need salt? Add it. Pepper? Do the same. You can also stir in freshly chopped herbs at the very end, which is what I like to do...a nice mixture of basil, parsley and oregano.

                            Eat with freshly shaved parmesan on top.

                            Risotto does not need to be constantly tended, as some recipes call for. An occasional stir will still produce good results. Messing it up can still produce good results. I made this recipe a few days ago, and didn't have my thinking cap on. I added the wine directly to the onions and forgot about adding the rice (duh). I just added the rice in after the wine and kept going and still got a good result. I added the saffron halfway through the process.

                            It never hurts to try...you may just like it and if you use the proper ingredients (stock and good cheese) your risotto will be far from flavorless.

                            1. Risotto is easy and delicious any time of year.

                              "Massage" the rice when stirring by pressing it with your spatula.

                              I have been making FARROTTO several times a month -- it's farro prepraed like risotto and IMO it's even better.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                I really like risotto but, mostly cooking for myself, I seldom make it. Last time I did, for Easter, I tried a minimally-stirred barley risotto recipe from Heidi Swanson (101 Cookbooks) and I may not go back to rice either.

                                1. re: cmkdvs

                                  Yeah, I love barley cooked as in risotto or pilaf. Unfortunately, my husband doesn't like risotto at all so I rarely make it....sigh. He also hates polenta! Since he loves almost everything else, it's hard to be cross about it, but people comment that I always order either polenta or risotto whenever we eat out at an Italian restaurant.

                                  He loves barley risotto, though. Says polenta reminds him too much of Cream of Wheat.

                              2. I haven't seen it mentioned, but pumpkin risotto--or any made with winter squash--is yummy. Peel, de-string, and cube, a little bigger than a thumbnail and add to the toasted rice. Proceed as normal. The squash will cook by the time the rice has. Use sage as one of the herbs. Yum.

                                1 Reply
                                1. I can't disagree with much of what I've read here on where to start with Risotto. Where to END however I think is with the best stock that you can possibly find (namely homemade). I'd made risottos for years using store bought stock of varying quality (i.e. Progresso to boutique stock). But until I made and used my own stock I didn't know how good (my) risotto could be. The difference is amazing. Also for textural contrast I always sprinkle freshly grated cheese and chopped parsley on top at plating (in addition to what was added during the cooking process).

                                  Good luck!

                                  1. My favorite risotto is asparagus, gorgonzola, and pine nut. Lightly steam the asparagus ahead of time and chop diagonally about 1 inch. I also lightly toast the pine nuts ahead of time. Make the risotto as usual (little oil, diced onion, rice, wine, broth)--I use mostly the same method as QueenB but with no saffron and I add maybe 1/2 cup broth at a time. It takes usually 20-25 minutes for me; I also stir and prod the rice the entire cooking time (I think it's fun). When the rice is pretty much done, add the last half cup or so of broth, the asparagus, chopped gorgonzola, and pine nuts. I also add some grated parmesan (or have it set aside to put over the top). Adjust salt if broth was unsalted, and that's it. I either make broth from scratch or use the boxed broths with less salt; canned broth or bullion cubes I find to be way too strongly flavored and salty.

                                    1. Risotto does take some time, especially since it's pretty much all active time (chopping, ladling, and lots of stirring). But you know, I have a lot of fun cooking it (even though it's not one of my favorite things to eat!), because it's really hands on cooking, and I find it really meditative. First, make sure you have a flavorful stock (if you don't want to make it yourself, buy a good quality stock), second don't skimp on the salt!, and third, relax and have fun with it.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: JasmineG

                                        "Relax and have fun with it." Words to live by, especialy when cooking, and especially with risotto. If cooking something becomes a chore you'll be less inclined to make it again.

                                        Plan on an hour. Cooking it may only take 20-25 minutes (which, as several have noted, is good to know), but any cook that only plans on actual cooking time will get in the weeds *very* quickly. Got kids? Let them stir or add the liquid. Jokes are appropriate here. Let someone else cut the veggies; while they may not be up to your standards it's more fun. (Unless they get damaged digits...) Have fun music playing and, if you like, dance while you stir.

                                        Several people have noted that they don't use chicken stock, and my advice is to take that to heart. While it has it's place, and can be perfect, IMHO it's way overused.Think about the ingredients and use what's appropriate.

                                        1. re: Richard 16

                                          I usually use a combination of chicken and vegetable stock.

                                          The first time I made risotto I didn't have any wine. I deglazed the pan with brandy. It was really good. I've used beer, too, now and then, because I don't always keep white wine on hand.

                                          1. re: revsharkie

                                            I've used red wine and came out with a pink risotto. Tasted good!

                                            As for the chopping, I do all that ahead of time. Chop the onions, any veggies I want to use, etc... If I'm adding shrimp, I'll shell them ahead of time and get them ready. I'll grate the cheese and chop the herbs, premeasure the wine. That way, when I start, I don't have to do much of anything else than dump the ingredients in.

                                            It makes it a whole lot easier.

                                            1. re: QueenB

                                              Once when i was out of just about everything I considered using elderberry wine, but I chickened out.

                                              I was afraid of risotto because it seemed awfully fussy, but I used bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything, which simplified things quite a little bit. He says you don't stand and stir constantly, which means I can leave it be while I go put something in the oven or whatever else needs to be done. And it's usually done inside of 30 minutes.

                                      2. Oh goodness there is so much you can do with risotto as many other posters have already mentioned. I personally don't think risotto is boring but a very versatile, flavorful dish. It doesn't usually take me an hour to make - usually 30 minutes tops - but you defintely have to go with the rice - if it feels like taking an hour, let it! ;) Also, the bigger portion you are making, the longer it will take. Your broth has to be simmering already before you stir it in. I always start with garlic and shallot first, add the rice, and deglaze with wine before adding stock. Another way to infuse flavor into the rice is to use the liquid from re-constituted dried mushrooms before you add your stock. Yummy! Overall, get creative. I've had so much fun thinking up new ways to make risotto.

                                        1. You can’t make a good risotto without bringing your whole self to it, or you will have no more than a bowl of rice that took a heck of a long time to make. It is on every count like making love and the more you give, the better it will be.
                                          Make your own stock. Be sure the stock is kept warm.
                                          Cook the onions ever so gently and seasoned with salt and a sprig of fresh thyme, or whichever herb you are using, until they are completely softened, at least ten minutes and even fifteen, until they taste so delicious that it is all you can do to keep yourself from eating the onions gone before the risotto even hits the pan.
                                          It won't be more than thirty seconds that you will need to toast the rice in with the onions before adding wine.
                                          When you have finished the risotto and you are about to mix in a few tablespoons of room temperature butter at the end and cheese, if you are using it, be sure to fold instead of stir. You don't want the risotto grains to continue breaking down once they are at their perfect point.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: fayehess

                                            And once you learn to do all of these things this way for your risotto, you can apply the same approach and attitude to other dishes and your cooking will never be the same again.

                                          2. Jamie Oliver has some really excellent and foolproof risotto recipes...there are a couple in all of his books, and they're all based on the same basic recipe. I've made several and they've always turned out lovely--simple, tasty, and well worth the time.