Come fare il risotto

How to make Italian risotto: step-by-step photo directions   Loretta Sebastiani

Risotto is one of the typical dish of Italian cuisine. We Italians have the habit to make risotto in the North of Italy; in fact rice is cooked in other ways in the South. Chance may have led to the risotto recipe: a too lively boiling or the necessity to cook in large and shallow pans where the water must be added a little at a time. The tradition ascribes the most famous risotto to Milan (Milanese risotto, made with saffron); it dates back to 1474 when a young man, engaged in the restoration of S. Helen's window in Milan's Duomo, was reprimanded because he had the habit of using too much saffron to color the backgrounds. He was said:"you'd put that yellow color in the soup too!". So when he got married, he prepared a rice soup colored in yellow with saffron. But it's a legend, for sure ;))

Bean risotto in white plate
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Bean risotto

Italian risotto how-to

There are a lot of recipes based on risotto in Italy. You can combine rice with meat, fish, vegetables, cheese or pulses. In this page I want to teach you the step-by-step method that allow you to prepare every kind of recipe.

At first I'm going to list some tips that I have learned in many years.
A detailed explanation, accompanied by photos, below!
  • - What is the right pan? use a stainless, large and shallow pan with an heavy and thick bottom so you can add boiling water a little at a time.
  • - How to stir? The best thing is to use a wooden spoon to stir but I have to say the secret for making a tasty risotto is not to stir continuously (the rice grains could break) with a few exceptions: some recipes made with pumpkin or other puréed vegetables that tend to stick to the bottom of the pan if you do not stir continuously.
  • - Prepare all the ingredients so as not to lose time and the cooking must not be interrupted.
  • - For making a tasty risotto it is necessary to prepare some stock; it must be not too salted and it is different for every recipe. You have to keep it boiling continuously so you can add it everytime it's necessary. For the quantity: it's enough to prepare about 1,5l (3.2 pints - 6 1/3 cups) stock for 400g (14 ounces) rice.
  • - The proportions of all your ingredients are very important. The most common ingredient is the onion; use 10g (1/3 ounce) per 100g (3 1/2 ounces) rice. If you want and can use butter: 20g (3/4 ounces) per head. But remember that in many cases butter can be replaces with olive oil for a healthy recipe (2 teaspoons per head). You can also substitute onion with chives.
  • - You have to add some wine to risotto in one of the initial steps. The choice is among red or white or rosé or sparkling wines. I use white wine with fish and vegetables, red wine with meat, pulses and cheese. Do not overuse with wine, follow the doses of the recipe.
  • - And finally, the right variety of rice. Remember to use long grain, parboiled rice or every variety able to disperse little starch; it is demonstated it is very useful for the final step too when some creamy ingredients can be added to risotto (mantecare).
  • - Mantecare ... what's the meaning ot this Italian word? mantecare consists in adding (when cooking is complete, once turned off the heat) butter or cream or Parmesan cheese, stir and let risotto rest for a couple of minutes, before serving. You are not obliged to stir in always creamy ingredients; sometimes you just need to sprinkle your risotto with chopped fresh or dried herbs or add flavor with some spice. In some cases all these steps are advisable.
  • - Your risotto should be creamy, not too dry. The best thing is to turn off the stove when the stock has not yet well reduced and let it rest in the pan for a couple of minutes. You'll gain the double purpose of getting the right texture and not to serve a too hot dish.

Let's see now my step-by-step explanation accompanied by photos.
This bean risotto serves two. You can make this recipe of mine all year round: in summer with fresh beans and in winter with dried or canned beans. If you use dried beans, remember to soak them overnight and to boil until tender. They must be added to risotto five minutes before the end of cooking.
Click on every photo to enlarge it!

sequenza delle fotografie
1 Prepare onions, carrots and celery

Chop a little carrot, a little onion and a celery stalk finely. A garlic clove too, if you want. Transfer all your vegetables together with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, shallow pan. Add a dried bay leaf too.
Meanwhile bring to a boil about 800ml (1 2/3 pints - 3 1/3 cups) vegetable stock. You can prepare your stock using stock cubes or fresh vegetables. I never use stock cubes. I prefer to boil carrots, onion, celery and some aromatic herbs in salt water. Then I filter my vegetable stock.

2 fry slightly onion, carrot and celery in olive oil

Let all your vegetables fry slightly (Italian soffritto) on very low heat but avoid your onion browns.

3 add pureed tomatoes

At this point add 200g ( 7 ounces) pureed tomatoes and continue cooking, a couple of minutes.

4 stir in rice and let cooking liquid reduce

Now stir in 200g (7 ounces) long-grain, parboiled rice.
The right serving per head should be 80g (2.8 ounces) but I usually prepare risotto for me and my husband with 200g: in this case we eat only risotto that is our one-plate meal ;))
Turn up the heat and continue cooking until all cooking liquid is well reduced, as you can see in the picture.

5 add wine

Pour in red wine (half a glass). Stir and let it evaporate on fierce heat, stirring now and then.

6 let wine evaporate and control your stock

Meanwhile your stock should be near the boiling point. Stir rice the last time making sure that all wine is well-evaporated.

7 add stock

Now pour in a small amount of boiling broth (about a third part); lower the heat and stir your risotto. Let your stock continue simmering. When the stock in your risotto is reduced, add a little more and then stir immediately. Keep in mind that cooking times can vary between 15 to 20 minutes. In most cases, you should be able to use almost completely your stock but a lot depends on the quality of your rice, and other factors such as the heat. You'll learn the right amount of stock to prepare with the experience ;))

8 add beans

Add your beans together with a little ladle of boiling stock 5 minutes before the end of cooking. If you use canned beans, remember to drain them from their preserving liquid. Use 1 400g (14 ounces) can beans or 400g fresh beans in the pod or 100g (3 1/2 ounces) dried beans.

9 making creamy your risotto

Once turned off the stove, you can stir in grated Parmesan (1 tablespoon per head) and sprinkle with parsley and chives according to your own taste.

Let your risotto rest for some minutes.
Your risotto is now ready! Serve it in individual plates!

Making a good risotto seems not an easy task but in reality you just need a little practice as in all things ;))
So, in summary, the essential steps for making a good risotto are:

  • - preparing all vegetables to fry slightly (Italian soffritto)
  • - frying slightly onions and all you need for the specific recipe
  • - adding rice and letting it brown
  • - pouring in wine and letting it evaporate
  • - adding stock little at a time
  • - adding other ingredients if necessary and according to recipe directions
  • - adding butter, cream or cheese to your risotto or sprinkling aromatic herbs .... once turned off the stove


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