Basic Risotto

basic risotto

I’ve been writing this blog for just about six months (my, how time flies) and there’s not a single mention of risotto. This is huge oversight on my part, as it is my go-to pantry dinner (I’ve never been much of spaghetti and jar of sauce girl), not to mention my favorite, last-minute, casual dinner party dish (for nearly a decade, yikes!).

It all started with Jamie Oliver; I was a huge fan of his Food Network show and, later, cookbooks. In college, I loved hosting quarterly (more or less) dinners for friends. Typically, the meals revolved around huge pots of mushroom risotto cooked in my dorm’s grody, ill-equipped, shared kitchen. (Looking back, I know it wasn’t the best risotto. There were rice and vegetable textural issues [read: overcooked] that I’ve since addressed. Two tips: You must heat the broth separately and do not cook the mushrooms along with the rice or crowd the pan [with mushrooms or, say, a tripled batch of risotto].)

Anyhow, this is a recipe for an easy peasy basic risotto that even the least experienced cooks out there can master. Seriously, I’m rarely the one to make risotto nowadays as David (see: inexperienced, though capable, cook — sorry, dude!) has taken over the reins. He actually insisted on making it so often in order to become proficient (I truly admire and appreciate his determination) that we not only stocked an excessive amount (four pounds) of Arborio rice in our panty at one time (thankfully, no longer, we’re now down to one and half pounds, max), but I was also forced to seek out creative uses for risotto that could be frozen for later consumption as to avoid total risotto burnout (a serious and real concern). From the latter, I learned out about arancini di riso, which can be described as an elegant version of a mozzarella stick. (I don’t even like mozzarella sticks, but these are cruelly addictive.) Basically, all you do is nestle a small piece of mozzarella into some chilled risotto, roll in millet flour-egg-breadcrumbs, chill (fridge or freezer) and fry – every layer offers a lovely contrast in texture. (As you may have already guessed, they’re the star of the next post.)

I find this basic version wonderfully comforting any time of year and delicious enough on its own. However, if you’d like to jazz things up a little, it is a lovely blank canvas, especially for seasonal produce. Learning from my first attempts, I strongly recommend cooking any vegetables (mushrooms, asparagus, peas…) or meat (cubed, roasted chicken is a favorite of mine) separately and stirring them in at the end — at the same time as the Parmesan — so every part is perfectly cooked. Finally, an equally scrumptious vegetarian version can be achieved with a simple broth substitution.

Basic Risotto

(adapted from Everyday Italian and The Naked Chef)

Preparation Time: 5-10 minutes

Cooking Time: About 20 minutes

Serves: 2-4 as a main dish or side


  • 1 quart (4 cups or 1 liter) chicken broth
  • 28 grams (2 tablespoons) olive oil
  • 113 grams (1 cup, from about 1 small) finely chopped yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 113 grams (4 ounces or 1/2 cup) dry vermouth
  • 270 grams (1 1/2 cups) Arborio rice
  • 57 grams (1/2 cup) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Heavy cream (optional)

For Serving:

  • Maldon sea salt or Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese


In a small saucepan (2 quart), bring chicken broth to a boil; reduce to a simmer for the duration.

While the broth warms, measure oil into a large sauté pan or stock pot (at least 4 quarts) over just-shy-of medium heat (on my GE Spectra Electric range, I use the #4 setting); heat until shimmering. Add the onion, sauté until translucent (about 5 minutes). Stir in rice, cooking until the liquid is absorbed (1-2 minutes, do not allow rice to color). Deglaze pan with vermouth, cook until liquid is absorbed.

Stir in about 1/2 cup of the hot broth at a time, stirring the rice mixture constantly. When the liquid is nearly absorbed add another 1/2 cup broth; repeat with all but the last 1/2 cup of broth.

When there’s only about 1/2 cup of broth remaining to stir in, check rice for doneness (there should only be a little dot of white in the middle of a grain, tender with a little bite left, but not crunchy…very similar to al dente pasta). If the rice isn’t quite cooked properly, stir in 1/2 cup hot water and cook until liquid is absorbed (repeat if necessary until cooked). (Note: When cooked at the appropriate temperature, adding water will not be necessary. If it’s hard in the middle but overcooked (looses shape, very mushy) on the outside that is a sign that the risotto was cooked over too high of heat, adjust temperature down next time. It’s very difficult to get it perfect on the first try, it takes some practice.)

Once rice is cooked (described above), turn off heat, stir in last 1/2 cup broth, Parmesan and pepper. Let it sit, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes or until some of the broth is absorbed – you don’t want it to be either soupy or paste-like, but something in the middle – it should have a little flow or movement to it. If it ends up too solid before you have a chance to serve it, stir in a little heavy cream to loosen it up a little (bonus: it will be extra rich and creamy). Season to taste with salt and additional pepper; serve immediately.

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  • Reply
    July 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    This looks delicious. I love risotto. It is such a blank canvas for so many other flavors. Thanks for sharing! Buzzed!

  • Reply
    July 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    This looks fantastic…. I love risotto but have only made it once.

  • Reply
    heather sage
    July 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Janet: I appreciate your kind words. It’s quite possibly my favorite thing to eat, something I could eat every day (to a point). Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    S.V.: Thank you! I hope you get a chance to try this version for your second go of it :).

  • Reply
    Kelly @ Eat Yourself Skinny
    July 24, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    What a great recipe, this looks delicious! 🙂

  • Reply
    Lola Lobato
    July 27, 2011 at 8:09 am

    It is one of my comfort food, mmm…..

  • Reply
    heather sage
    July 27, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Thank you, Kelly!

    We’re so on the same page, Lola — it’s on my top five comfort foods list for sure!

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