Everything You Need to Know About Risotto

We started Mediocre Chef because we wanted to try new cooking techniques and recipes. We’ve learned how to make pasta from scratch and how to make homemade pizza, so naturally another Italian food we wanted to try was risotto! We had the same perception of risotto as we did about souffles (which we also wrote about) — it’s easy to fuck up and takes a long time. While those things are true, media has over-exaggerated these qualities and makes it seem like they are things that only master chefs can make. We’re here to tell you that mediocre chefs can make risotto too!

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What is Risotto?

Risotto is an Italian dish consisting of rice that’s been cooked in broth until it’s creamy. Classic risotto also typically includes some white wine, onion, and Parmesan cheese. That’s it! You can kick it up a notch with other ingredients such as mushrooms or a protein of your choice.

What Kind of Rice Do I Need For Risotto?

Traditionally you’re going to want to use with arborio or carnaroli rice. We used generic “Italian Style Rice” from the grocery store and that seemed to work out well. Really, any medium or short grain rice with a high starch content will be fine. These types of rice like to absorb liquid and the starch will help to create that super creamy sauce.

Fancy rice for poor people.

Fancy rice for poor people.

Mistakes to Avoid When Making Risotto

  • Using the wrong kind of rice — don’t use jasmine, basmati, or whatever kind of rice you have laying around. We recommend sticking with arborio or carnaroli — or if you’re like us, “Italian Style Rice” because your grocery store somehow didn’t carry either of those.

  • Using cold stock — this will mess up the cooking process, as you’re constantly trying to reheat it as you cook your rice. Nope. Don’t do this.

  • Rinsing your rice — this gets rid of the starch, which risotto needs for that creamy risotto texture.

  • Overstirring — this can ruin the texture of your risotto. Stir every 30 seconds or so. You don’t have to stir constantly! (Phew.)

  • Cooking your veggies & rice together — think about how long your rice needs to be cooked and stirred for. Do you really want your vegetables in there? The correct answer is no. Asparagus, peas, mushrooms, or whatever you decide to put into your risotto, will become too soft if you cook them at the same time.

  • Being impatient — don’t add all of your liquid (usually stock) to your risotto at once.

  • Overcooking — don’t overcook your rice! It should be al dente and have a bit of a bite to it. You don’t want it to be mushy. That’s gross.

Do I Need to Use Wine?

Apparently not. Wine really only adds a touch of flavour and acidity to help balance the recipe. Swap the white wine for a touch of white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar that’s been diluted by stock as per our boi Adam Ragusea. But really, unless there’s some sort of reason that you absolutely cannot have wine, just add the wine. Then you get to say that you’re cooking with wine, and that’s an immediate +2 buff to your reputation.

Some for the risotto, some for you.

Some for the risotto, some for you.

How Do I Cook Risotto?

You can do it one of two ways:

  • Over the stove in a pan

  • In an Instant Pot/pressure cooker

While the first way is more traditional, the second way also works well! We made risotto the traditional way versus the Instant Pot way to see how it would turn out.

Traditional: Mushroom Risotto

The traditional method of cooking risotto involves a lot of stirring and paying attention. We decided to do a mushroom risotto, so we cooked the mushrooms in our pan first (we added them back in later when the risotto was done so they wouldn’t be all mushy). Depending on what you’re adding to your risotto, you may want to cook it first and incorporate it into your risotto at the end.

Next you’ll want to sweat your aromatics (typically a shallot or onion) before adding your rice and toasting it. After deglazing with white wine, you’ll then slowly (½ cup at a time) add in enough stock for the rice to cook in. And then stir the shit out of it. (But not too much.) Keep stirring and adding stock until the rice is cooked al dente.

This method is a bit of a pain in the ass, but isn’t as bad as it’s been made out to be. When everyone says that you have to constantly stir the risotto, it doesn’t mean that you need to be moving it around every second of the cooking process. It means that you have to pay attention to the cooking and not go off and watch YouTube videos every 5 minutes. Stir it enough so that nothing burns — approximately every 30 seconds or so.

We recommend having a little extra stock on hand just in case you need it. And don’t forget the parmesan! It will bind everything together.

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The result of all of your hard work? A delicious, creamy risotto that you made, all by yourself!

Instant Pot: Risotto With Asparagus & Peas

Instant Pot recipes are the lazy way of cooking risotto. Who wants to stand in front of a pot and carefully stir, add more stock, stir, add more stock, and repeat? Pressure cookers offer a short-cut that makes risotto more family-friendly.

Most recipes will tell you to set your pressure cooker to saute mode and saute shallots/onions before adding your rice to toast for a minute. Once that’s done, all you have to do is add your rice, wine, and broth, close the lid, and let it come to pressure. A majority of recipes say it only needs to cook 5-6 minutes! That’s a huge time saver and allows you to work on other elements of supper instead of standing in front of a pot and stirring.

After the risotto done pressuring cooking, you’ll quick release the pressure. From here you can add more stock if it’s too dry. Then add parmesan, salt/pepper to taste, and any veggies you want.

We tried a recipe that added asparagus and peas. Our asparagus was thin so we didn’t feel the need to cook it and the frozen peas warmed up from the residual heat from the risotto! If making a mushroom risotto, we’ve seen most recipes call to saute at the start and pressure cook them along with the rice… we have our doubts about this (soggy mushrooms, anyone?) but maybe it would work.

Is pressure cooking risotto lazy? Or smart?

Is pressure cooking risotto lazy? Or smart?

Think you have what it takes to master risotto? Just imagine Gordon Ramsay screaming behind you as you stir your risotto, trying to get it just right. You can do it! Maybe you’ll even get a sweet compliment from this guy:

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Have a risotto success story or horror story? Share it in the comments below!