The Risotto Challenge: Traditional vs. Quick and Under Pressure

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Risotto is perfect for a special weekend dinner. Until I started working in the test kitchen here at Food Network, I would have never attempted it for a weeknight dinner. That was until Katherine Alford (Vice President Food Network Test Kitchens) introduced me to risotto made in a pressure cooker.

I was skeptical at first. Using a pressure cooker cuts out one of the most important steps: stirring and slowly adding hot stock, coaxing the starch out from rice to make a creamy, luscious risotto. But I gave the pressure cooker a try one Monday night and had risotto ready for dinner in 25 minutes. It wasn’t far off from its traditional counterpart: creamy, toothsome and took only a fraction of the time and effort. Here is how a pressure cooker works: The steam given off by liquids in a well-sealed pressure cooker is trapped, and as pressure builds the temperature rises significantly compared to normal stove-top cooking. These higher temperatures cook food evenly and quickly.

Tip: Be sure to read your manufacturer’s instructions before using your pressure cooker for the first time.

Try the risotto challenge yourself. For a more traditional version try Food Network Magazine’s Mushroom and Squash Risotto (pictured above) from the October issue on page 131. For a quick, pressure-cooked recipe consider our Butternut Squash Risotto from November 2009 on page 111. Follow the recipe directions the same as if you were cooking in a regular pot; just put the ingredients in the pressure cooker instead.

If you like our quick version, then keep your pressure cooker busy during the week by making a risotto “bar” — make the Butternut Squash Risotto plain without the sage, squash, cheese and arugula and let your family stir in their favorite leftovers and cheese.

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