What Is Risotto?
And how to make risotto.
By Krissy Downey for Food Network Kitchen
Krissy is a Digital Culinary Production Fellow at Food Network.
You may have seen the creamy Italian rice dish on the menu at a restaurant, or even tried making it yourself, but what exactly is a risotto? Let’s break it down.
What Is Risotto?
Risotto is an Italian dish made by cooking a starchy, short grain rice like arborio with stock until it becomes creamy. When you serve it on a plate, risotto should spread out into a silky, spoonable pool. Because it’s made with just a few ingredients, there is a lot of emphasis on the cooking technique: slowly ladling in warm stock to a pan full of rice, stirring until the stock is absorbed, ladling in some more stock and repeating. The dish is often finished with butter and freshly grated Parmesan to really kick up the creamy flavor, although the rice can be a neutral background to whatever you have on hand in the fridge – whether it’s a bit of leftover bacon or some gorgeous fresh green peas.
How to Make Risotto
Stovetop risotto is the most classic way to make risotto, although some recipes for baked and Instant Pot risotto have evolved the technique to minimize the amount of time you have to stand over the stove stirring.
Risotto recipes classically start with sweating out aromatics, such as chopped onions or minced garlic, in olive oil or butter in a large pot. Then, you add your rice and sauté it until the grains are just translucent. A hint of wine is often added after the rice to deglaze the pan, but the real star of risotto is the broth. While constantly stirring the rice, warm broth is added in, one ladle-full at a time. Over time, the rice absorbs the broth, releases its starches, softens, and creates that signature velvety texture. From there, anything from mushrooms to asparagus to lobster can be stirred in to give an extra punch of flavor.
Risotto is made with short-grain rice varieties, which tend to be high in starch and create that sticky, creamy texture you’re looking for in risotto. The two most common varieties used for risotto are carnaroli and arborio. Carnaroli rice is firmer and has a higher starch content, but arborio is arguably the more popular choice and is available in most American supermarkets.
Is Risotto Gluten-Free?
Usually, yes. The rice used for risotto is naturally gluten free, but be careful to check all the ingredients for traces of gluten. Sometimes store-bought broths or stocks have additives that contain gluten, so you will want to avoid those if you are looking for a totally gluten-free risotto.
What Is Risotto Milanese?
Risotto hails from Northern Italy, and Risotto Milanese is the signature dish of Milan, the capital city of the northern Italian region of Lombardy. Risotto Milanese gets its subtle flavor and pungent yellow color from saffron, a particularly expensive spice that comes from crocus flowers. Traditionally, Risotto Milanese is also flavored with beef marrow and beef stock, but more modern recipes often skip the beef marrow and use chicken stock.
Now that you know all about Risotto Milanese, you’ll want to try the Northern Italian classic for yourself. A traditional pairing is Osso Buco with Risotto Milanese. Osso Buco is a dish of braised veal shanks, and the term literally translates to, “bone with a hole.” The tender, rich veal and the simple risotto make the ultimate comfort meal that will impress any crowd.
Patience is a key ingredient when it comes to making risotto, but the end result is more than worth the effort. It is a show-stopping dish, and once you get the hang of the technique, the possibilities are endless. If the pouring and stirring all seems like too much effort, never fear. We have some methods for you that take all the work out of cooking risotto.
This is a delightful springtime treat, with notes of asparagus and lemon in every bite. It would pair wonderfully with fresh fish or a simple roast chicken.
There is a risotto for every season, and this is the perfect one to ring in Autumn. Sage and butternut squash bring a warm richness, and the pressure-cooker method makes for easy cooking and cleanup.
The Instant Pot transforms risotto from a laborious project to an effortless weeknight meal. Added bonus: the addition of shrimp and peas make this one a full one-pot dinner.
Have leftover risotto in your fridge? Turn it into cheesy, crunchy Risotto Cakes, served with mixed greens for a simple lunch.
Start this risotto on the stove, sweating out the aromatics, then add the warm stock and transfer the whole dish to the oven.