All about Risotto
Risotto is the great rice specialty of Italy. It is a triumphant dish, a dish that should be adored and respected along with all the other great Italian specialties such as pasta, pizza, and ice cream. It has all the versatility of pasta, and yet it is all too often overlooked and ignored because for various reasons, many people seem to think it is difficult to make!
For Italians (especially northern Italians where the dish has its origins), risotto is such an essential part of the cuisine that over the decades since it became a part of their menu they have developed many rice varieties which are specifically grown in order to make the dish.
The most basic premise for anybody making risotto for the first time is that you cannot make it unless you begin with the correct rice. The most common of these is called arborio, which is the best all-rounder, but there are two others: Carnaroli and Vialone Nano. Carnaroli has the largest and fattest grain, which means the rice is less likely to overcook. It also keeps its shape better and generally gives very good results, especially if one has not cooked very many risotti before. In Italy, this rice is reserved for very special occasions as it is considered to be the most precious. Vialone Nano has the smallest and hardest grain. It takes longer to cook and is a slightly more difficult to use. It is the rice preferred and most used by Venetians.
Once you have the correct rice, the next thing you need is some really good broth, which must be delectable enough to sip from a cup. It is not enough to simply use a bouillon cube (although this is permissible in an emergency!), and in an ideal world fresh homemade stock is the best option.
However, real life being what it is, for all those who claim not to have time to make broth: freshly made broth is now widely available in a whole range of flavors. Seeing how easy and satisfying it is to make broth, I have always found this
bit mystifying, but most ready-made broth I have tasted has been delicious. a little
Armed with these two basic ingredients, you are then ready to begin cooking this truly great dish. If you follow the recipe carefully, you will see that contrary to what you might think, risotto is very simple to make!
Making risotto is essentially a five step process:
Having softened the onion, garlic, shallot, or leek in the butter or oil, add the rice at once and toast it thoroughly to heat it through, but without browning anything.
When the rice is really hot, add the first ladleful of hot broth or a glass of wine.
Continue to add the broth gradually, as well as any other ingredients required by the specific recipe.
When the rice is cooked, take the pan off the heat, stir in the final few ingredients, cover, and let it rest for a few minutes.
After resting, the risotto is ready to serve.