Everything you need to know about Risotto

Creamy, tasty, cheap, easy to prepare, risotto is a first course whose origins are lost in the past centuries, when due to the rampant poverty Italians had to work with the few ingredients available. 

When did I learn to make risotto? … well, I don’t know, maybe I always knew…

My grandmother used to make it quite often, on Sundays (yes, it used to be the Sunday dish once), with chicken livers, and I hate liver! Risotto per se was good, so I left on the plate all the tiny pieces of chicken liver. 

In spring there was risotto with peas, and that one was lovely; then the classic with saffron, that was the best!

I don’t know how many types of risotto are out there. I had a count of 120. But there could be more. 

There is a classic risotto to which one can add its own creativity according to his palate. 

Risotto with Pumpkin

Here is How to Make Risotto at Home

Make sure you have fresh, high-quality broth and rice of the right type. You will see what wonders can be created with these two ingredients!

SERVES 4 to 6


(choose the best ingredients you can find for best results)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large shallot, finely chopped

2 cups arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano rice

8 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

The herb pictured is the “Sclopit” or “Silene”.


Warm your stock, bring it to a boil and keep it simmering. Measure, chop and gather all of the ingredients going into your risotto.

Melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a 10- or 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan. Add the shallot, stirring often, until fragrant and beginning to soften about 4 minutes, but as much as needed to make it translucent.

Pour the rice over the onions and stir until every grain is coated with the butter. Continue stirring the rice until the edges have turned translucent but the center is still opaque about 2 minutes.

Add a splash of white wine, which will add more flavor. You should hear a “sigh of relief” by the rice when you add the wine! 🙂 Use a 1/2 cup of wine, and simmer, stirring constantly, until the wine has completely reduced and the pan is nearly dry about 3 minutes.

Slowly add the broth in increments, stirring in between. Begin adding the broth one ladle at a time, stirring regularly between additions. Wait to add another ladle until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed by the rice. This gradual addition of broth is key to getting the rice to release its starch and create its own delicious sauce, so don’t rush this step. Ideally, you want to use just enough broth to cook the rice and no more.

Continue adding broth until the rice is al dente. The risotto is ready when the rice is al dente (when it still has a bit of chew) and the dish has the consistency of thick porridge, about 18 minutes total (you might not use up all of the broth). If you run your spatula through the risotto, the risotto will flow slowly to fill in space.

Adding extra butter at the end is optional. Yes, it makes it more creamy, but if the risotto is done right you won’t need that (extra calories!).

Serve the risotto immediately. The longer it stands, the more the starches will set and you’ll lose the creamy silkiness.

  • Risotto alla Milanese – A specialty of Milan, made with beef stock, beef bone marrow, lard (instead of butter) and cheese, flavored and colored with saffron
  • Risotto al Barolo – A specialty of Piedmont, made with red wine and may include sausage meat and/or Borlotti beans (Pinto Beans are the closest to the ones we call Borlotti)
  • Risotto al Nero di Seppia – A specialty of the Veneto region, made with cuttlefish cooked with their ink-sacs intact leaving the risotto black
  • Risi e Bisi – A Veneto spring dish that is correctly served with a spoon, not a fork; it is a soup so thick it looks like a risotto. It is made with green peas using the stock from the fresh young pods, flavored with pancetta.
  • Risotto with Bergamot
  • Special Day Risotto
  • Risotto alla Zucca – Made with pumpkin, nutmeg, and grated cheese
  • Risotto alla Pilota – A specialty of Mantua, made with sausage, pork, and Parmesan cheese
  • Risotto ai Funghi – A variant made with mushrooms such as porcini (actually you can use any type of mushrooms)
  • Risotto with Prawns and Paprika
  • Risotto with Zest Lemmon and White Wine 
  • Risotto with Herbs (cups finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, chives, chervil, dill, basil, chives and arugula (4 cups leaves)
  • Risotto with Red Radicchio
  • Risotto with Leeks and Bacon – This one I made it up myself, instead of pancetta, the bacon fits in quite well. 
  • Risotto with Prosecco and Brie – This one I made it with my son’s cooperation, we had heated discussions whether or not to use the rind of the brie; so we tried both ways. Without is more creamy, with the rind it has a bit of a sharp taste (typical of the brie)
  • Risotto with Bruscandoli – “Bruscandoli” are the end tips of the hop plants. This plant can be found easily in the Venetian countryside.
  • Risotto with Asparagus – A classic in spring
  • Risotto with Sclopit – Called Silene vulgaris, is a plant native to Europe, in some parts it is eaten but is also widespread in North America, where it is a common wildflower in meadows. It is commonly known as sculpit, stridolo, sciopentin, grixol in Veneto, or sclopit in Friuli.
  • Special Day Risotto
  • Valentine Day Risotto

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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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