Risotto is a classic Italian rice based dish cooked in broth to a creamy consistency. The broth can be meat, fish or vegetable based. Many kinds include parmesan cheese butter and onion. It is one of the most common methods of cooking rice in Italy.
Risotto is normally the first course served on its own before the main course but risotto alla Milanese is often served together with ossobuco alla Milanese. Risotto can also be made with seafood and legumes and different types of wine and cheese. There is even an exceptional Italian strawberry risotto which is truly exotic.
Few of the many variations which are popularly known as Risotto all milanes, made with beef stock, beef bone marrow, lard (instead of butter) and cheese, flavored and colored with saffron. Risotto al Barolo is made with red wine and may include sausage meat and/ or Borlotti beans. Black risotto or risotto al nero di sepia made with cuttlefish cooked with their ink-sacs intact is a speciality of the Veneto region. Risi e Bisi or rice and peas is a popular Veneto spring dish that is correctly served with a spoon and not a fork. It is a soup so thick it looks like a risotto. It is made with green peas using the stock from the fresh young pods, flavored with Pancetta.
Rice like high starch (amylopectin), low amylase round medium or short grain rice are usually used to make risotto as such rice have the ability to absorb liquids and to release starch and are stickier than the long grain variety. The principal varieties used in Italy are Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Padano, Roma, and Vialone Nano. Carnaroli and Vialone Nano are considered to be the best (and most expensive) varieties, with different users preferring one over the other. They have slightly different properties. For example, Carnaroli is less likely than Vialone Nano to get overcooked, but the latter, being smaller, and cooks faster and absorbs condiments better. Other varieties like Roma, Baldo, Ribe and Originario may be used but will not have the creaminess of the traditional dish. These varieties are considered better for soups and other non-risotto rice dishes and for making sweet rice desserts. Rice designations of Superfino, Semifino and Fino refer to the size and shape (specifically the length and the narrowness of the grain) of the grains, and not the quality.
There are various risotto recipes with different ingredients but all are based on rice of an appropriate variety cooked in a standard procedure. The basic and traditional way of cooking the risotto; the rice is first cooked briefly in a soffritto of onion or garlic and butter or olive oil to coat each grain in a film of fat, this is called tostatura; white or red wine is added and has to be absorbed by the grains.
When it has evaporated, the heat is raised to medium high and very hot stock is gradually added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid. At that point it is taken off the heat for the mantecatura when diced cold butter and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are vigorously stirred in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier, and left to cook with its residual heat. Seafood risotti generally do not include cheese.
Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy but still with some resistance or bite: al dente, and with separate grains. The traditional texture is fairly fluid, or all’onda (“wavy, or flowing in waves”). It is served on flat dishes and it should easily spread out but not have excess watery liquid around the perimeter. It must be eaten at once as it continues to cook in its own heat and can become too dry with the grains too soft.
To prepare this simple and easy risotto, you need two pots for this dish, one should be a deep non stick pan. Firstly heat the broth until hot (not boiling but steaming). In the non-stick pot heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic and onion in the olive oil and sauté until they become translucent. Add the rice and cook stirring frequently until rice is well coated (about 2 minutes). Add ½ cup of hot broth of rice and stir until broth is absorbed.
At this point, add the vegetables of your choice (use a head of chard or broccoli or a can of white beans, red bell pepper or zucchini). Continue adding broth in ½ c. increments stirring until it is absorbed between each addition. Once all broth is absorbed, risotto is done. The whole process takes about 30-40 minutes in total.
To make a good risotto, 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). 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. Using regular long-grain rice will produce a mushy, gummy mass.
Do try this exciting Italian dish and enjoy it with your family and friends. Click on the link for detailed recipe: