Laid-back Risotto


I don’t know. I look at this story about how hard it is to make risotto, and I think, “Well, either Felicity Cloake – whom I don’t know – is making way too big a deal out of a simple dish, or I have no clue how to make risotto.”

Because as I detail below, risotto is a no-brainer. It’s true that the difference between bad risotto and pretty good risotto is technique, but the technique is not a big deal.

But the two biggest differences between pretty good risotto and great risotto are not technique-y at all. To make great risotto you need really good stock, and a lot of butter.

I’ve made risotto like this hundreds of times – the pix are of one I threw together last week – and I’ve rarely had it as good in restaurants.

Please. Do not let risotto scare you.

Simple Risotto

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Time: 45 minutes

[Adapted from How to Cook Everything]


4 to 6 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil, to taste

1 medium onion, minced

Large pinch saffron threads (optional)

1 1/2 cups Arborio or other short- or medium-grain rice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine or water

4 to 6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1. Put 2 tablespoons of the butter or oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. (Allow the remaining butter to soften while you cook.) When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the onion and saffron and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with butter, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper, then the white wine. Stir and let the liquid bubble away.

3. Use a ladle to begin to add the stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep the heat medium to medium-high and stir frequently.

4. Begin tasting the rice 20 minutes after you add it; you want it to be tender but with still a tiny bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes to reach this stage. When it does, stir in 2 to 4 tablespoons softened butter or oil (more is better, at least from the perspective of taste!) and at least 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately, passing additional Parmesan at the table if you like.



Posted in Italian


  1. Anonymous said...

    You are SO right! Risotto is so delicious, and easy–but maybe we shouldn’t tell too many people so they’ll think we’re esp. talented.

  2. Tony Ham said...

    Agreed! Risotto is just rice. It’s not supposed to be complicated. There’s just a lot of "ritual" that is associated with it.

  3. tylamfowler said...

    I can’t wait to make this with some sweet corn and tomatoes thrown in! I’ll probably add extra parmesan too…

  4. Anonymous said...

    I will add that this is equally good made with barley. Technically it’s not risotto but it is yummy all the same!

  5. Anonymous said...

    Once again, homemade stock is the key to great cooking. (Helps enormously if you have a big freezer at home, though. 😉

  6. cupandtable said...

    there are lots of rules for risotto and pasta. italian food is really very simple, but the flavors are impeccable, (maybe that is why there are so many rules)? i have also made risotto hundreds of times, and as long as you retain the ability to adjust the seasoning and moisture until the end, it is really pretty consistently great. perhaps my favorite dish ever.

  7. campaignshoutin said...

    Risotto heresy? We make it much more often thx to the pressure cooker, working from @LornaSass ‘s basic recipe

  8. ladycrumpet said...

    Would a short-grain brown rice work for this?

  9. elizabethr said...

    YES! Risotto is hardly tough OR complicated…The few minutes of stirring are no big deal, and easily leave time inbetween check-ins for other prepping. I have a similar reaction when people make noise about making polenta! In fact, I love the ease and versatility… and it’s sooo delicious….!

  10. Anonymous said...

    In this case, I think people confuse complicated for time consuming. People just don’t like the idea of having to stand in the kitchen watching a dish simmer waiting to add more stock. Since most people try to do about ten different things while getting dinner on the table: help kids with homework, sort mail, throw in a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher- it makes people nervous that if they are gone at the wrong moment they will have a burned up mess on the bottom of their pan.

  11. Anonymous said...

    I recently made spring vegetable risotto from Cook’s Illustrated. The technique was different and even easier. Instead of adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, 2 cups were added and simmered until mostly absorbed (and stirring only occasionally). Then broth is added 1/2 c. at a time until al dente (I only had to do this twice). The result was the best textured risotto I have made at home so far – creamy and not too thick or thin.

  12. Anonymous said...

    My sister makes the best risotto by modifying recipes to at least doubling the vegetables and adding more cheese.

  13. elizabethr said...

    Yes! I saw that recipe, too, and will definitely give it a try. I LOVECook’s Country for all their informative techniques and recipes. Theyalways work the way they say they will… and they’re so clear.

  14. Anonymous said...

    And, don’t forget risotto cakes with the leftovers. Mix some fresh herbs and an egg or two into cold risotto. Form into patties, dredge in panko breadcrumbs and pan fry. Serve with a nice green salad. My 6 year-old cleaned his plate.

  15. pazzaglia said...

    Hi Mark, I just referred to your "laid back" technique in my blog post. It is definately helping to "sell" the idea that risotto can be made in the pressure cooker!Risotto in 20 minutes- via pressure cooker!

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