It occurred to me the other day that it’s been ages since I last shared a risotto recipe. And by ages, I mean nearly five freaking years, which is way way way too long, especially when you consider that I make risotto at least once a month.
Yeah, I know. Fancy lady makes risotto once a month. How faaaaaancy. La-dee-dah.
Just hear me out.
Once you get the hang of it, risotto is actually stupidly easy to make, to the point that I no longer even look up a recipe when I make it. And between you and me, sometimes I don’t even use the expensive Arborio rice with the pretty label on it, because the cheaper “Italian short-grain” rice that’s roughly half the price does a pretty decent job, too.
Here’s how you make a risotto when you don’t have a recipe.
First, you set a small pot of broth to simmer over low heat on the back burner. About 6 cups ought to do it.
Then, you grab a second pot and splash a little oil in it. Ideally, this should be a nice wide, shallow pot with a heavy base… I have a deep Anolon skillet-slash-Dutch-oven that I swear by, but even a bashed-up saucepan will do the trick, as long as it can hold about 8 cups.
If you’re adding bacon or pancetta or ham, add it first and let it crisp up, so that the oil absorbs all of that delicious porky goodness.
Follow this with the aromatics. Some finely chopped onion, or perhaps minced shallots. A little garlic is nice, but can be overpowering, so I tend to skip it most days. If you want to add some seasonal vegetables, like mushrooms or peppers, this is when you add them in as well.
Next up, you add the rice. A cup and a half, to be exact.
Stir it around until it’s nicely coated, then add a splash of white wine. If you don’t have white wine, dry vermouth works rather nicely… or perhaps some sherry, if you’re working with earthier flavours, like mushrooms or tomato.
At this point, you can start ladling in the warm broth, a little at a time, stirring as you go. As it cooks, the rice begins to release starch into the broth, creating that wonderfully creamy texture that makes risotto… well… risotto. You know you’re almost done when most of the broth has been absorbed, and the rice is plump and soft with just a teensy bit of bite remaining.
If you’re adding sweet peas or corn, throw them in at the same time as the last ladleful of broth. They just need a few minutes to cook up.
Stir in a handful of Parmesan cheese and a dab of butter, and you’re ready to eat.
See? Easy. And all you needed was a couple pots and a nice sturdy spoon to get the job done.
This particular version goes into heavy rotation by mid-summer, when the local red peppers and corn are sweet and full of flavour. It’s not particularly traditional, but it is delicious nonetheless.
It’s a little bit sweet, a little bit smoky, and wonderfully flavourful, just like summer in a bowl.
And yes, I suppose it’s a little bit fancy, too… but hey, who doesn’t need a little fancy in their life?
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 strips bacon, diced
- 1 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 large shallot, finely minced
- 1½ cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1½ cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
- In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer over low heat. Cover and keep warm.
- In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until well browned and starting to crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper and shallot, and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes, or until the shallots are soft and translucent.
- Add the rice to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the rice is evenly coated with oil. Stir in the wine, and cook until it's been mostly absorbed.
- Begin stirring in the warm broth, adding it to the pot one ladleful at a time, stirring as you go. Wait for the broth in the pot to be almost fully absorbed before adding more, stirring frequently to keep risotto from sticking to the pot. Repeat this process until you have just one ladleful of broth remaining and rice is tender, about 25-30 minutes.
- Stir the last ladleful of broth into the pot, along with the corn kernels, and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the corn is tender-crisp and the risotto is creamy.
- Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan and fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve right away.