5 steps for the perfect risotto
A well prepared risotto is incredibly delicious, but sadly, sometimes things go slightly awry. Yet it's not rocket science and most especially, time is of the essence. But what do you actually know about this Italian classic?
The origin of risotto
Risotto is one of the most famous and globally prepared rice dishes. It originates from the Northern provinces of Italy, where a lot of rice has always been grown. In the latter half of the 20th Century, it became more popular throughout the rest of Italy, many new variants were created and new types of rice were grown. The North was always more popular for dairy products (and the South for Olive Oil). For this reason, risotto has the creamy substance that we know today.
It starts with…
The name says it already, ‘riso’ is Italian for rice and that is why for this classic, it's all about the right kind of rice. It's not just about pulling a random pack of rice out of the cupboard either. Risotto should always be made using a round-grain rice. The reason for this is quite simple: it absorbs a lot of moisture and easily releases starch. There are roughly three important types of rice: the semi-fine, the fine and the super-fine. However, the types of rice might be more familiar to you. Arborio, Carnaroli and Vialone nano are the most famous, although there are also many more lesser-well-known types. They can all absorb approximately four times their weight in moisture.
Risotto in five steps
Let's be clear, preparing risotto is somewhat different than simply boiling rice in bouillon. There is a little more to it if you really want to achieve a great result. By following the most important five steps, and understanding what the essence of each step is, then it will be a guaranteed success! Here, we have outlined them for you.
Step 1 - Sofrito: making risotto starts by gently frying a diced onion in butter.
Step 2 - Tostatura: in this phase, add the rice to the pan and allow it to toast a little, it can be slightly crispy and the rice should be glazed and lightly toasted.
Step 3 - Umifità: the adding and reducing of the white wine. And by the way, there are also recipes with red wine, mostly Barolo.
Step 4 - Brodo: now add a little of the bouillon, bit by bit. The flavour of the bouillon will determine the final flavour and is, therefore, an essential part.
Step 5 - Mantecatura: derived from the Spanish mantequila, which means butter. This is the last phase of the risotto preparation, when the butter and cheese are added.
If you would like to add a garnish, then you can do that as a sixth step. No matter what risotto you make, follow these 5 steps and you are guaranteed to create the perfect risotto.
Risotto should be fluid, right?
The essence of risotto is all in the texture. In Italy, this differs per region and the claim that risotto ‘should flow’ on the plate, is only partially correct. In some regions, you can stand a spoon upright in it, whilst most notably, in the region of Venice, fluid is the norm. That’s what the Italians call All’onda. When you tilt your plate, the risotto makes a slight wave-motion.
Making risotto takes a lot of time and attention. That is why the words ‘fast’ and ‘risotto’ never appear in one sentence together. And for the best result, it should be made à la minute, right? No, that’s not completely true. There are chefs who pre-cook the risotto and then allow it to cool so they can warm it up à la minute in order to continue cooking it.
That's the lazy way? Not at all! There is even a scientific explanation for it. Because some of the starch, that was already drained, stiffens up, you can create a more resilient structure, so the rice remains much firmer. Check it out in the McGee.
I want to get started
Do you want to get started on making risotto? Here you can find three thoroughly tested recipes that you can do anything with, including, fitting in these times, a well-thought out vegan version:
1. Risotto alla Milanese: the most famous risotto recipe.
2. Risotto: this recipe does not contain any saffron and marrow and is a more neutral version. A perfect basis for all your variants.
3. Vegan risotto: in this recipe, the risotto is flavoured with nutritional yeast flakes. These add the typical cheese aroma that we know risotto for.
New to the world of risotto? Then just start with the classics. They will give you a lot of satisfaction and you will keep making them. Once you have them down, then you can play with other variants and come up with some of your own, too. You will see that if you just follow the 5 steps, you will always have great results.
Have you become curious about all risotto recipes and different variants?