The secret to perfect risotto every time (and it’s not stirring!)

Published on Fri Feb 11 16:10:00 UTC 2011
Carolyn Malcoun

The secret to perfect risotto every time (and it’s not stirring!)

Risotto done right is absolutely sublime: rich and luxurious with just a touch of toothsomeness. Risotto, an ultra-creamy rice dish, is made by slowly combining hot broth with arborio (or other “risotto-style”) rice. Despite its reputation for being fussy or time-intensive, risotto is actually quite simple to make. While you do need to attend to the pot while you’re making risotto, that step only takes about half an hour. And the results are more than worth it! All you need are a few choice ingredients and a bit of time at the stove and you’ll have a pot of creamy risotto that an Italian nonna (grandmother) would be proud of.

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So what’s the secret to good risotto? It’s using short-grain risotto rice. Arborio is the most commonly available rice variety in American supermarkets, but if you can find carnaroli, vialone or another Italian “risotto” rice, you can use those as well. Look for these varieties in the rice section of well-stocked supermarkets or in the bulk section of natural-foods stores. These rices are high in amylopectin, a starch that readily breaks down when cooked, giving risotto its characteristically creamy texture (without any added cream). While EatingWell typically advocates for whole grains over refined grains, the outer layer of bran on brown rice (and other whole grains) prevents the amylopectin from being released during cooking, so whole-grain rice can’t give you the same result.

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You’ll also want to make sure to use a broth or stock that you like, since the dish will be infused with its essence (use homemade if you can), and a good-quality Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano, to get the best flavor bang for your buck. Our step-by-step photos will have you making perfect risotto every time!

Here's the recipe for Basic Risotto. Once you’ve mastered the technique, variations on the recipe are almost endless. You can add different vegetables, use any type of broth and add whatever herbs you have on hand. Serve risotto alongside roasted or braised meat or enjoy it as a main dish with a big tossed salad. Whichever way you choose, you’ll be enjoying a simply luxurious meal.

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