Risotto for Beginners

Creamy risotto in a bowl

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Yield: 3 to 4 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
247 Calories
11g Fat
24g Carbs
7g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 247
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Cholesterol 24mg 8%
Sodium 406mg 18%
Total Carbohydrate 24g 9%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 2mg 11%
Calcium 51mg 4%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 260mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Risotto is a traditional Italian rice dish made from a short-grained, starchy variety of rice called Arborio rice. A properly cooked risotto should form a soft, creamy mound on a dinner plate—it shouldn't run across the plate, nor should it be stiff or gluey. While not difficult, some essential tips will help you make restaurant-worthy risotto at home.

This basic risotto recipe is made with butter, Parmesan cheese, and fresh parsley. It's a perfect recipe to start with if you've never made risotto before. Risotto takes a while to cook properly, and it requires your attention as well as your time. For upward of 20 minutes, you have one job and one job only: Add hot stock, a ladleful at a time, to the rice and cook slowly, stirring often, so that the stock is absorbed. The technique is called the risotto method. It releases the rice's starches, producing a creamy, velvety dish. 

Risotto is best served warm, often in heated bowls or plates. It can be a side dish to a meat or fish entrée and is often served in restaurants as the first course. Once you perfect a basic risotto, you can try a variety of risotto recipes that include vegetables and proteins such as lobster and chicken. Accompany the risotto with a salad or cooked vegetables and Italian bread.

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"Classic, relatively inexpensive, and easy to make, this creamy risotto recipe is on point. The result feels lavish, without having to go to an upscale restaurant. Once you get the method down pat, you can customize to your liking. I made this dish several times because I enjoyed it so much." —Victoria Heydt

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A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1 quart) chicken stock

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided

  • 1 medium shallot, chopped (about 1/2 cup; or 1/2 small onion, chopped)

  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth (or dry white wine)

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for risotto
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the stock to a simmer. Lower the heat so the stock stays hot while you cook the risotto.

    Heating the stock
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  3. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the chopped shallot or onion. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly translucent.

    Heating the oil and chopped shallot
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  4. Add the rice to the pot and stir it briskly with a wooden spoon so that the grains are coated with the oil and melted butter. Sauté for another minute or so, until there is a slightly nutty aroma. Make sure not to let the rice turn brown. 

    Adding the rice and stirring it with a wooden spoon
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  5. Add the vermouth or wine and cook while stirring, until the liquid is fully absorbed.

    Adding the vermouth and stirring it with a wooden spoon
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  6. Add a ladle of hot chicken stock to the rice and stir every once in a while until the liquid is fully absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and repeat the process. 

    Adding the chicken stock and stirring it with a wooden spoon
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  7. Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, for about 20 minutes or until the grains are tender but still firm to the bite, without being crunchy (al dente). 

    Adding more stock and stirring with a wooden spoon
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  8. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the Parmesan cheese and parsley. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

    Stirring in butter, Parmesan cheese, and parsley
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  9. Serve in bowls and enjoy.

    Risotto served in a bowl
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Tips

  • Timing is key to making a perfect risotto. When you add a ladle of broth or wine to the risotto, make sure that you wait until the risotto has almost completely absorbed the liquid and the rice is nearly dry before you add the next portion of broth. Rushing the process will result in rice that may be mushy on the outside and crunchy on the inside.
  • Although many risotto recipes say to stir constantly, this can change the texture of the rice and make it gluey. After adding a ladle of hot stock, stir every once in a while to incorporate the liquid and keep the rice from sticking to the pot and scorching.
  • If you run out of stock and the risotto is still crunchy, finish cooking it with hot water. Add the water a ladle at a time, stirring often until it's absorbed.

Can I Substitute Another Type of Rice?

The type of rice is a key component of risotto. The best Arborio substitutes are carnaroli and Vialone Nano. Both are high-starch varieties and commonly used in Italian kitchens for this dish. Farro and sushi rice will work in a pinch. Avoid long-grain rice varieties like jasmine as these will not result in a creamy risotto.

Recipe Variations

  • Turn this risotto recipe into a main dish by adding cooked shrimp, grilled chicken, or sautéed mushrooms during the last step.
  • Change the flavor of the dish by swapping out the Parmesan for Pecorino Romano, mozzarella, fontina, or gruyere.

Is This How Restaurants Cook Risotto?

What's interesting about the risotto method is that it's so time- and labor-intensive that restaurants can't use it. It would take too long to make, and patrons don't like waiting half an hour for their food. Instead, restaurants use an alternate method that involves par cooking the rice and then finishing it at the last minute. It gets complicated because Arborio rice will turn glutinous and sticky if held too long, so many restaurants do not make a true risotto.

How to Store and Reheat

  • Leftover risotto should be refrigerated in an airtight container and eaten within two days. It does not freeze well.
  • To reheat risotto on the stovetop, bring stock or water to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the risotto, stirring for a few minutes until it's heated through. Start with 1/4 cup of liquid for 1 cup of risotto and add a little more liquid if needed.
  • To reheat in the microwave, add 1 tablespoon of butter and a splash of white wine or water to the risotto. Microwave for about 3 minutes, stir, check the risotto's temperature, and cook longer or add liquid if needed.