How to Make Perfect Risotto: A Tutorial With Photos

Simple Risotto
Molly Watson
  • 01 of 07

    Sauté Onion in Hot Butter and Oil

    How to Make Parmesan Risotto
    Molly Watson

    Risotto is a traditional Italian rice dish made from a short-grained, starchy variety of rice called arborio rice. The technique for making it is called the risotto method, which involves stirring small amounts of hot stock or broth into the rice a little at a time, allowing the liquid to be absorbed as you go.

    While the rice cooks, it releases its starch, which is essential to giving the risotto a rich, creamy consistency. The more starch in your rice, the creamier the risotto.

    Low and Slow

    This is why cooking your rice slowly is essential; cooking risotto low and slow gives super-starchy arborio rice the time it needs to release the starch and achieve the sought-after creaminess.

    Like pasta, risotto is cooked al dente, which means that it should be slightly firm to the bite—a degree of doneness that might seem underdone in ordinary white rice. It shouldn't be crunchy though.

    Rice-to-Stock Ratio

    For each cup of uncooked rice, you'll need about 4 cups of hot chicken stock. Keep the stock hot in a small saucepan at a low simmer over a separate burner from the one you'll be using to cook the risotto. You'll also need a small ladle that holds 6 ounces or so for adding the hot stock.

    Tip: Use a wooden spoon for stirring the risotto—it's less likely than a metal spoon to break the grains of rice.

    First things first: Heat 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or a straight-sided sauté pan, then add about half a cup of finely chopped onion. Cook on medium-low until the onion is translucent.

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  • 02 of 07

    Add Uncooked Rice

    How to Make Risotto
    Molly Watson

    Add 1 cup of uncooked arborio rice and stir briskly, coating the rice grains with the hot butter and oil.

    Sauté the rice for a minute or two, until there's a slightly nutty aroma. The rice shouldn't look brown or toasted though.

    Continue to 3 of 7 below.
  • 03 of 07

    Add Wine and Cook Until It's Absorbed

    Making Simple Risotto
    Molly Watson

    Add about 1/2 cup of dry white wine to the rice, and stir until it is fully absorbed. Take your time; it needs to be fully absorbed. The wine livens up the flavors of the risotto. Any decent dry white table wine will do. If you have some dry white vermouth handy, that would be a good choice.

    Continue to 4 of 7 below.
  • 04 of 07

    Ladle-by-Ladle

    Adding Broth to Risotto
    Molly Watson

    To the rice, add a ladle of hot chicken stock from the pan of stock that you're keeping hot on the stovetop; stir until the liquid, once again, is absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and repeat the stirring.

    Stir Constantly to Prevent Scorching

    It's important to stir constantly, especially as the liquid gets absorbed. This prevents scorching. Add the second ladle of stock as soon as the rice is almost dry.

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  • 05 of 07

    Add More Stock

    Making Homemade Risotto
    Molly Watson

    Continue adding more ladles of hot stock and stirring the rice while the liquid gets absorbed. You'll see your risotto take on a creamy consistency as the rice cooks and begins to release its plentiful natural starches. That's the magic of arborio rice.

    Total cooking time will be 20 to 30 minutes. The risotto is done when it's al dente, meaning that the grains are tender but still firm to the bite, without being crunchy.

    If Rice Is Still Crunchy, Add Hot Water

    Remember, a cup of uncooked arborio rice should absorb 3-4 cups of stock. If for some reason, you've added 4 cups of stock and the risotto still isn't done, you can finish the cooking using hot water instead of stock. Just add the water as you did with the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring while it's absorbed. (Humidity and altitude can play a role in your rice needing a little more time.)

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  • 06 of 07

    Finish With Butter and Parmesan

    Adding Cheese to Finish Risotto
    Molly Watson

    Stir in another 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and about ¼ cup of freshly grated Parmesan. You can also stir in some finely chopped Italian parsley. Adjust the seasoning with kosher salt.

    Continue to 7 of 7 below.
  • 07 of 07

    Serve Immediately

    Simple Risotto
    Molly Watson

    Risotto turns sticky and gluey if it's held too long in the pan or fridge, so it should be served immediately. A properly cooked risotto should form a soft, creamy mound on a dinner plate.

    More Recipes

    You can easily turn this basic recipe into any of the following delicious variations that are palate pleasers for both adults and children:

    Bonus

    Rice is Gluten-Free. For anyone who must avoid gluten, rice and, thus, risotto is gluten-free, unless there has been cross contact with grains that do contain gluten. Because rice is gluten-free, those with celiac disease tend to eat a lot of it. But experts warn not to go overboard because rice also contains naturally occurring arsenic, which can be a problem. Eating rice dishes like risotto as part of a well-balanced diet with other gluten-free grains and reading more about the rice-arsenic connection are good approaches.