It has come to my attention that I am really great at making risotto. Maybe because I’m Italian, maybe because I COOK WITH LOVE, maybe just because I excel at all things carbohydrate related. Probably a combination of the three.
That being said, I often get asked for my risotto recipe. Which is a hard question to answer, because risotto doesn’t so much have a recipe as it has a METHOD. Sorry for being a pretentious little shit right now, but it’s true. Cooking risotto is a PROCESS that depends on feeling when everything is right and if you adhere really closely to a recipe, you will almost certainly screw it all up.
This actually gets it pretty close, except (1) get outta there with those pine nuts, (2) you need to sauté your mushrooms separately rather than dumping them in at the end because you are not an animal, (3) there is not enough cheese, my god, and (4) there is not enough wine either, JFC, and (5) there aren’t that many other ingredient amounts listed, which is fine if you are me and therefore have a god-given talent for knowing how to create risotto. But for everyone else, here is how you do it. You may have to make it a few times before you get it right, but once you do, prepare to have a culinary orgasm. Or maybe a real orgasm? I don’t know your life.
GATHER YOUR SHIT
So you need a bottle of white wine. Well, actually, you just need 1 to 1 and a 1/4 cups of white wine. Most recipes say that you should use a dry white, but honestly I don’t think that matters. For example last night I used moscato by mistake, and it was fine; I just added a little extra cheese at the end to balance out any sweetness. OH THE SACRIFICES WE MAKE. So, basically, use whatever white wine you want. Just don’t use shit wine that you wouldn’t drink, because that would be stupid, and also drinking wine is a key step in the risotto creation process.
You are also going to need 6 to 8 cups of chicken stock, and that is where quality matters. I haven’t ever made my own stock because I have a life with actual responsibilities. However, if you can find time to make your own stock, then congratulations! Use that and please send some to me. If not, and you are making risotto for a *~*~fancy occasion~*~* then go to an expensive grocery store and buy some of the stock they make in-house. (If you live in NYC, Citarella does this. It’s in the case near the salad bar.) You also are completely allowed to use regular boxes of chicken stock (don’t use cans, those skeeve me out, I dunno), but FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GET LOW SODIUM, DO YOU WANT TO HAVE A STROKE RIGHT HERE ON YOUR KITCHEN FLOOR? Haha, just kidding, obviously you don’t care about your health, you’re about to make a meal almost solely consisting of carbs and fat. You just want to be able to control the salt content. Note that if you’re using boxed stock, it will have less flavor, so you may want to let it simmer with some dried porcini mushrooms and/or the rind of a hunk of Parmesan and maybe a bay leaf for 20 minutes or so before you get started. But that’s just optional, albeit totally badass.
OH BUT JULIA WHERE IS THE RICE? Duh, you need 1 and 1/2 cups of arborio rice. If you use something else you are not making risotto, the end, full stop. I’m sure some of these barley and quinoa ”risotto” recipes are pretty tasty, but they aren’t risotto, they are stupid trendy and/or healthy knock offs. And as we have already determined, you are not here for your health.
Also, you need 1 onion, diced (or a couple of shallots, which I prefer because I am a gourmand), salt, 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon of saffron because you are not fucking around in your spice game, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of butter, and whatever other random vegetables you want to add to your risotto. Here are some options!
- Cherry tomatoes, roasted at 450 for 10 minute until they caramelize and pop in the oven, which is annoying to clean up but NATURE’S CANDY, Y’ALL
Whichever you pick, cook them separately in a little olive oil, and then set them off to the side until the end of the risotto process.
1. Simmer your stock. If you are using the Parmesan rind and porcini mushroom strategy, do that. If not, just simmer it in a pot. This is not a difficult concept.
2. In a separate pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and let cook for about 3 minutes or until soft.
3. LET’S GET THIS RISOTTO PARTY STARTED! Pour in your rice and a big pinch of salt and stir it all up so all of the grains get coated with olive oil. Let the rice cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to smell like toasted rice (although if any of you have ever actually toasted rice, you may have bigger problems that risotto can’t solve), and the edges of each grain become slightly translucent.
4. Pour the wine into your risotto pot. Also add the [insert dollar bills flying away emoji] saffron. Stir using the oldest wooden spoon you can find. Bonus points if it belonged to an Italian grandmother named Strega Nona. Stir until the wine is mostly absorbed by the rice. You will think the rice will never absorb all that wine. It will. Trust in Strega.
5. Once the wine is absorbed, add in your stock one ladle at a time, waiting for each ladle to be absorbed before adding the next. What do you do while the stock is absorbing? Why, YOU STIR, OF COURSE! You literally cannot stop stirring. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. If you stop stirring, you will notice that WITHIN SECONDS the rice on the bottom of the pot starts to get gummy and thick. THIS IS TERRIBLE. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU OR YOUR LOVED ONES. I’ve seen a bunch of recipes going around recently that promise you risotto “without all of that pesky stirring!” These recipes are LYING TO YOU. They were written by the people responsible for the Target credit card breach. They will come into your home and steal your most treasured possessions and ruin your credit rating. DO NOT TRUST THEM.
The good thing about stirring, though, is that it only requires one hand, except when you’re ladling in more stock. So what do you do with your other hand? Well, you put a glass of wine in it, obviously, preferably from the bottle of white that you opened a few minutes ago.
6. Okay so you’ve been stirring for a fucking eternity and you’ve drank a glass (or 2) of wine and you no longer have feeling in your stirring hand. By now your risotto will look thicker and, I don’t know, kind of goopy. Try a little bit to see if the rice is the right texture — like pasta, you want it to be al dente, with just a little bit of bite. Just get it to the point where it looks like risotto. I don’t know how to explain it, but you will know it when it’s there. Also, now is when you should add more salt if you feel like it needs it. (Spoiler alert! It does.) It’s okay if you get to this point and there’s still some stock left over. This isn’t an exact science. This is cooking like my Italian grandmother. She didn’t believe in science, I don’t think. Especially evolution. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Now, you have some room to personalize your risotto here. I tend to like mine to be a bit thicker, so that when you put it in a bowl it makes this incredibly satisfying “plop” sound and sort of settles a little bit. But it is not liquidy or soupy and it won’t spread out to the edges of the bowl (see photo above). But some people like it more liquidy! And that’s okay! We are all people of different shapes and sizes, there are so many colors of the rainbow, there is room in this world for soupy risotto. Just add even more stock and stir a little slower and swap some of the butter in the next step for cream. You do you.
7. Add the butter and whatever cooked vegetables you prepared already. And, guess what???? KEEP STIRRING. Stir until everything is combined. Then take the pot off the heat, use whatever remaining wrist strength you have to stir in the cheese. Let the pot sit for a minute or two while you diagnose just how badly you have given yourself carpal tunnel.
8. DON’T PUT ANY OIL ON TOP OF IT. Don’t add olive oil. Don’t be a bourgie douche and add truffle oil, for Christ’s sake. You just made something incredible, don’t fuck it up now with something else that’s going to coat your mouth and prevent you from tasting your creation. Instead, serve it into the aforementioned bowls, top with some more grated cheese and chopped parsley, and shovel it into your mouth as quickly as you can because it is just that delicious. Or savor it while drinking even more wine because you’ve earned it. And also you need to dull the pain in your wrist.
Julia Pizzi is an attorney living in New York City. When she's not lawyering, she can be found either creating cheese-based recipes in her kitchen or tweeting @jpizzi.