Risotto, made from arborio rice and slow cooked until creamy in a flavorful broth, is Italian comfort food at its finest. Nothing compares to the rich taste of homemade risotto made with fresh ingredients. There’s a misconception that risotto is incredibly difficult and time-consuming to make. Yes, while it does take longer to make than rice out of a box, the technique is not complicated, and once you learn it you will never need to look at a recipe again. And you can’t beat the versatility of it. Once you master the simple technique for basic risotto, you can create virtually hundreds of different delicious variations. All you need is fresh ingredients, imagination, a little patience and a glass of wine. Oh, the risotto will need some wine too!
Every risotto I make starts with this basic recipe. The technique is simple and you can work on other things in the kitchen in between stirrings. It’s all about multi-tasking and time savers! With practice, you will find that this recipe is easy to remember, and once you learn it you don’t need to bother with it again. Sometimes I don’t have time to chop onions and toss in dried ones in with the arborio instead. Finish the dish with whatever fresh ingredients you have on hand like gourmet cheese, fresh or dried herbs, roasted vegetables and even cooked meat or seafood.
Every risotto I make starts with this basic recipe. The technique is simple and you can work on other things in the kitchen in between stirrings. It’s all about multi-tasking and time savers! With practice, you will find that this recipe is easy to remember, and once you learn it you don’t need to bother with it again. Just finish the dish with whatever fresh ingredients you have on hand like gourmet cheese, fresh or dried herbs, roasted vegetables and even cooked meat or seafood.
Variety is the Spice of Risotto
I make risotto with whatever combination of fresh and dried ingredients I have on hand that will compliment and round out the rest of the meal. The following are just a few of my favorite combinations, I’m sure you can come up with a dozen or so of your own!
- Goat Cheese and Asparagus– after you make basic risotto, stir in creamy goat cheese and chopped asparagus that has been steamed or roasted.
- Sauteed Mushroom and Red Wine– substitute red wine for the white wine in the basic recipe and add your favorite variety of sauteed mushrooms at the end.
- Butternut Squash, Gorgonzola and Prosciutto– stir in chopped prosciutto, gorgonzola and pre-made Butternut Squash puree.
- Risotto Milanese– Stir in saffron threads for a simple but exotic dish.
- Three Cheese– add any three cheese combinations that you desire!
- Goat Cheese and Sun-dried Tomato– no explanation required, just add the ingredients and stir.
- Truffled Risotto with Fresh Herbs– stir in white or black truffle oil and your favorite fresh herbs like tarragon, basil or thyme.
- Seafood Risotto– stir in a variety of your favorite shellfish like shrimp, mussels, clams or lobster and a pinch of saffron for a creamy dish similar to Spanish Paella.
- Cilantro Pesto, Corn and Andouille Sausage– a delicious tribute to my New Orleans roots; just stir in homemade Cilantro pesto, a can of corn and sliced spicy Andouille.
- Goat Cheese and Smoked Boar or Venison Sausage– you can substitute any smoked sausage for a rich, creamy and satisfying meal.
As you can see, the possibilities are simply endless. I’d love to hear about your favorite risotto combinations!
Suggested Wine Pairings
The perfect wine will greatly depend on your risotto ingredients.A light to medium bodied lively Italian red with bright acidity would compliment just about any flavor combination and help balance the richness of risotto. Look for a Sangiovese, Barbara or Barbaresco. If you prefer white wines, a crisp one with lively acidity, like a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, would also pair well with risotto.