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  • Becky M

Basic Risotto

Risotto is one of my most beloved and enjoyable recipes to prepare. About 30 years ago while living in Switzerland, Eddie and I were invited to the Zardi's home for dinner. I stood over the stovetop watching Isabella stir the broth broth into the risotto con gli asparagi while singing in Italian. That moment flashes into my thoughts every time I prepare risotto. Unfortunately I can't sing in Italian as she did, but Eros Ramazotti and a glass of red Tuscan wine does inspire my Italian cooking. Since, I have been inventing new risotto recipes for the past 30 years, but the basic recipe remains the same for virtually all recipes. While there are many variations for risotto as there are condiments, the basic technique never changes; once you learn it, all the recipes will follow. Making risotto is not an exact science, and you will find in a short time, your own cooking sense will guide you. You will quickly feel the exact amount of cooking liquid you will need, reducing the broth if the condiment mixture is very liquid or adding water if the broth should run out. Also be flexible on the amount of butter, Parmesan, parsley or cream to improve your risotto. Be adventurous!

Every Risotto Recipe Includes the Following:

  • Broth, wine or cooking liquid, depending on the individual recipe, is the medium for cooking the rice. For the broth, traditionally it is recommended to heat and keep at a simmer while adding to the risotto. Out of convenience, I choose to purchase the prepared broth in tetra pak (box) packaging and add directly at room temperature to the risotto.

  • Condiments can be meat, vegetables, cheese or any ingredient giving the individual risotto its special character. Depending on the recipe, the condiments can be added anytime during the cooking process.

Serves 6

Main Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

⅓ cup onion, finely minced

1½ cups arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

6 cups vegetable or chicken broth, good quality brand

1 tablespoon butter

⅓ cup parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated

1 cup condiments, can vary according to recipe


1. If adding a condiment, prepare before beginning the basic risotto recipe. See below for condiment options. Be creative and explore your ideas!

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over a med-low heat. Add onion and saute for 1-2 minutes until onion begins to soften, being careful not to brown it.

3. Add the rice to the pot and stir together with onion using a wooden spoon, making sure all grains are well coated. Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed. Begin to add the broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition of broth is almost completely absorbed before adding the next ½ cup of broth. Stir frequently to prevent any sticking. Reserve ½ cup of broth for the last addition together with the condiments.

4. After about 20 minutes, when the rice is tender but firm, remove pot from heat and add the reserved broth, butter and parmesan (also condiments if included), stirring vigorously to combine with the rice. Add pepper to taste.

My Favorite Condiment Variations

  • Saffron risotto (milanese) - combine ¼ teaspoon saffron (crushed) midway through cooking to heated broth in pot, stir vigorously.

  • Mushroom (porcini) - 6-8 ounces mushrooms, sliced and sauteed in butter or ¾ ounce package dried porcini mushrooms added to hot water, then directly to broth.

  • Cherry tomatoes - midway add 1 pint whole cherry tomatoes to broth in risotto and simmer. Add 2 tablespoons diluted tomato paste to condiments, stir vigorously into risotto.

  • Chicken with mixed vegetables, seasoned with truffle salt.


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