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No shortcut to good risotto

MAKING a good risotto is no big challenge, but if it makes you stand in the kitchen for 20 minutes, then it will spoil your mood for the dinner party. The dish doesn't allow shortcuts and can't be successfully prepared in advance.

A good risotto uses only Italian risotto rice. The grains of this rice are short and stubby and absorb liquid without becoming gluey (unless they are overcooked). The rice is stirred constantly, with hot stock added a cup at a time, until it has reached a point of softness but with the grains retaining their shape. They should be creamy, with a slightly resistant core and should not stick together or to the bottom of the pan. The whole procedure takes about 20 minutes.

Use a wide, heavy saucepan or skillet (if the pan is too light, the risotto can burn) and a wooden spoon to stir the rice. Always add hot stock (preferably homemade) and, except in the case of seafood, aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese that is freshly grated.

The essential ingredient in risotto is the broth or stock. As always, homemade stock is preferable, but a low-sodium canned stock will work fine (bouillon cubes tend to be too salty and should only be used in emergencies). Make sure you have the stock on a low simmer as you prepare the rice.

Any risotto follows this basic formula at its start; additional flavors and ingredients are added afterwards.


3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (low-sodium if canned)

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 cup arborio or vialone rice

1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese

1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

Salt and black pepper, to taste.


1. Bring stock to a simmer in a stock pot over medium-low heat; reduce heat to low. Meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed pot, heat the butter (or use part butter and part olive oil) over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the rice and cook over medium-high heat for about one minute, stirring to coat with the butter. Add the white wine and stir until the wine is absorbed, about 30 seconds.

3. Add the first addition of simmering stock, about 1/2 cup. Stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add another addition of stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the rice should still have some chew to it. The process will take about 20 minutes.

4. Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped parsley and the grated cheese to taste. Season with salt and pepper.

Yield: 2 main-course servings, 4 appetizer servings.


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