Many people find the concept of making risotto daunting, as this seemingly difficult dish appears to take hours to prepare, and years to perfect. But this simply this isn’t true. All you need is the right ingredients, the right instructions, and, admittedly, quite a lot of patience. But once you’ve cracked the perfect risotto rice, it becomes a brilliant and versatile dish to impress your friends and family with, and can easily be adapted for the vegetarians and vegans* among us.
Many of you who may have attempted risotto before most likely used Arborio rice, and while this is the most common and widely available risotto rice, there are other varieties out there. These include Vialone Nano, for a more robust flavour, and there’s also Carnaroli, which is a lighter, looser and more delicate option – and the one we’ve opted for in this recipe.
Ingredients (serves 4) 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
400g Carnaroli rice
1 glass white wine
2.5 litres chicken, fish or vegetable stock, as appropriate
110g grated Parmesan or Gran Padano*
ground back pepper
One of the secrets to a great risotto is having all your ingredients ready before you begin – so make sure your onions are chopped, your stock is ready, and your wine glass is full. You’ll want to use a pan with a thick, heavy bottom. Start off by adding your vegetable oil on a low heat. Add your chopped onions and soften for around 5 minutes – but don’t allow them to colour. Add your rice, and turn the heat up. Cook your grains for a minute or two until they are translucent and heated through, then add in your wine, which should sizzle when it hits the pan. Keep stirring until it’s been absorbed.
Next, add the stock, which needs to be added one ladle at a time, allowing the risotto to soak it up before adding the next. Turn your heat down to a simmer and keep stirring. If you have one – use a girariso (a spatula with a hole in the middle), effectively giving you twice as much stirring power. Stirring the risotto is important, as it helps it release starch and gives it its creamy texture.
After you’ve been stirring and adding your stock for about 10-12 minutes, you can add in any extra ingredients, as your rice will be about half way through by now. You could try one of our classic combinations and opt for some mushrooms and a squeeze of lemon, with some crushed garlic and fresh rosemary. If you eat fish, seafood risotto is delicious, and pairs beautifully with the white wine.
Your rice should begin to soften after this time, so make sure you check it regularly (you want it to be soft but with a slight bite). Add your stock in smaller amounts, and use boiling water if you run out. Don’t forget to season during this time too, checking regularly. Once it’s ready, remove your pan from the heat add the Parmesan and butter, and stir in well. This process is called mantecatura, and is essential for a creamy and glossy risotto. Pop the lid on the pan and allow to sit for a few minutes, then serve. Enjoy!