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Apr 27, 2010 06:50 AM

Risotto.. Why the wine?

Have to admit I've avoided making risotto as any recipe I've read in my many cookbooks, online cooking sites, or cooking shows, always call for wine as an ingredient.
I'm not against wine, theres always plenty of it in my house for guests & I do on occassion use a good wine when cooking a poultry or meat dish as a bit of wine does improve the taste of the dish, but the wine in those dishes loses its strong flavor and smell after simmering or baking for a while.

I'm one of the rare few who cannot abide the taste of any wine on its own, I cannot drink even the smallest glass of wine if offered as even the smell of the wine in the glass makes me queasy. .
Thats why I've been reluctant to make risotto as I can't see the wine flavor dissapating too much as the cooking time for risotto is not very long.

So that takes me back to my question. Why do you/they/ everyone always add wine to risotto? Was there a time when there was no wine in a good risotto dish? Do some of you omit the wine in a risotto dish that calls for wine? If so, was it as good, or was it not as good?

Inquiring minds would like to know this great risotto mystery!
Thank you kindly

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  1. First of all, the cooking time for risotto - at least half an hour and often more, is quite long considering what you're doing the whole time is cooking it in a shallow, open pan while stirring it over medium heat. Basically, you're boiling off most of the water you add in the first place and while I'm no physicist, I imagine that at that point, all but a miniscule amount of alcohol would boil off, too. You can of course leave it out, though you'd probably need a little vinegar or lemon juice to provide acidity. I don't always make risotto with wine and while it obviously tastes a bit different, it's still good. Wine is not a "necessary" component per se. It adds flavor, acidity, and of course the water, all of which can be provided by other ingredients.

    Given your sensitivity you probably don't keep any wine around anyway so it may not be worth the effort to you, but I'd suggest giving it a try - using wine in a risotto that is - if you're that interested in recreating specific recipes. I don't react to it the way you do, but I'm very, very sensitive to the taste and smell of alcohol myself, and have never noticed it in a finished risotto. You might have a problem just standing over the pot while it cooks off, though, so keep that in mind too!

    1 Reply
    1. re: MikeG

      I do agree that wine cooks off with the duration of risotto cooking, I am suprised to see you saying it takes a half hour or more to make risotto. I've made lots of risotto and seldom does it take longer than 18 minutes actualy cooking time, and then I let it sit maybe 5-10 minutes, but I'm not sure much wine is "cooking off" at that point.

    2. Marcella Hazan's basic risotto recipe doesn't include wine. So obviously it's not a carved-in-stone ingredient. I'd just use stock where your recipe calls for wine. Doubt that anyone at all could tell the difference. I use wine because I've always made risotto with wine. I can't taste it in the finished product.

      1. I have a book only on risotto that has recipes with and without wine, so it seems that wine is not essential.

        As an aside, there is an old saying that rice is born in water but must die in wine, i.e. you must drink wine, not water, with risotto.

        1. Wine is an acid and tenderizes the rice before adding the main liquid, whether it's broth or water. I've made many risottos that call for 1/2 cup or so of wine without it and just adding an equal amount of broth or water instead. The recipe still comes out fine.

          1. The wine is added for flavor and acidity. That strong flavor you describe will cook out. It's there more for depth of flavor rather than a strong, one-note of flavor in the foreground.