Food & Drink Around The World: Cooking Perfect Risotto


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Risotto is an important part of Italian cuisine, but making the perfect risotto takes a bit of practice. Beyond that, risotto needs just the right timing and concentration. This could be why your risotto never tastes as good as the stuff you order in a restaurant, or why the restaurant cannot compete with your Italian grandmother’s risotto.

How To Buy

Cooking the perfect risotto starts with buying the right rice. You should look for round or semi-round rice to start with. The best type for cooking risotto is Arborio. Long-grained rice is going to lead to inferior risotto because the strands stay separate. You should also avoid minute rice as it will also stay separate and will not absorb the condiments.

Cooking Risotto

When cooking the perfect risotto you will generally follow the same basic procedure, though there may be some minor variations in different recipes. You will start by mincing a small amount of herbs and/or onion as called for in the recipe. You will sauté this in an abundant amount of olive oil, to which you will add the rice. You will need to continue to stir vigorously to prevent the mixture from sticking to pan. Once the rice becomes translucent you will add in a ladle of broth. You will then need to continue to stir until the liquid is absorbed. Stirring is important.

If the grains of rice dry out too much they will flake. You will continue to add broth a ladle at a time as the rice absorbs it until you have reached al dente. Firm risotto should be timed so that the liquid is entirely absorbed, whereas soft risotto should have a little liquid left. Then, depending on the recipe, you will add butter and cheese, before turning off the flame and covering the risotto.

It will need to sit for a few minutes before serving. If you want perfect risotto that is richer, you could add about a quarter cup of heavy cream along with the butter. This is known as mantecato, and is smoother than traditional risotto.

Risotto Recipes

If you are looking to use risotto as a first course, here is a recipe that you can try:

Risotto with asparagus

1 pound of fresh asparagus
Half of a small onion, sliced finely
1 and 1/2 cups of rice
1/4 cup of butter plus an additional two tablespoons. You could also substitute ¼ cup of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter.
1 cup of grated Parmigiano cheese
Save the water that the asparagus was cooked in, along with enough broth to make a quart. This will need to be simmering.
Salt and white pepper

To make this perfect risotto, you will first need to clean and boil the asparagus until it can be easily penetrated by a fork. Remove from the water using tongs, and trip the tips from the stalks. The green part of the stalks should be cut into one inch lengths. The white ends can be returned to the pot with the broth.

Sauté the onion using half of the butter or olive oil. Once the onion has become translucent, you can add the rice. Once the rice has also become translucent, you should stir in the lengths of the asparagus stem. Add the liquid in a ladle at a time, being careful not to add any of the white stems.

Continue cooking as explained above, and when the rice is nearly cooked add in half of the reserved asparagus tips. Season the risotto as needed, and once it has reached al dente remove from the heat and add the butter and cheese. Allow to stand before serving, and then garnish with the remaining tips. This recipe will serve four to six people.

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