Risotto is a very important dish in Northern Italy. Like all Italian dishes, it is simple but can be varied based on the produce in season. If you’ve read some of my previous posts on Italian Food Rules (How to Eat Cold Cuts or When to Drink Milk) you can expect there to be clearly defined rules for making this famous dish as well.
Do you want to know what they are?
Eight Basic Rules for Risotto
- Use Starchy Rice
The most common types of rice used in Northern Italy for Risotto is Arborio or Carnaroli. They are starchy which make for a perfectly thick risotto. Jasmine or Basmati rice will not cut it.
- Use a Pot or Pan, not the Rice cooker
Don’t even think about using a rice cooker! It is not a dish where you can set it and forget it. It’s cooked in a pot or a pan and needs continuous attention and care. I’ve heard some mixed opinions about using a pot or a pan. Personally, I prefer a big pan because I find that the rice cooks evenly.
- Finely Chop and Sauté the Soffritto
What’s a soffritto? It’s usually onions, carrots and celery finely chopped and sautéed in a pan separately from the rice. Personally, I use shallots and sometimes, garlic. To make a good soffritto for risotto, the ingredients need to be chopped so finely that they melt in the risotto. If you can see them in the serving dish, then you haven’t chopped them finely enough.
- Toast the Rice
In a pan, heat up some fat, or aromatic lard or oil and then toast the rice. The rice needs to be toasted to close up the “pores.” If the pores are closed, then it will prevent the rice from becoming overcooked.
- Add Some Dry White Wine – Sfumare con il vino bianco
“Sfumare con il vino” means to add wine to the toasted rice. Why is white wine added? For balance. If you used a fatty ingredient to toast the rice, like lard, then the white wine will balance it out. If you just used a bit of oil, then there is no need to.
- Risotto needs constant attention
To cook the risotto, you need to be constantly adding broth and stirring. It can’t be added all at once. It needs to be added a little at a time and then mixed. When the liquid starts to disappear, you add a little more broth and mix again. This is repeated until the rice is perfectly cooked.
- Butter Finish – Mantecare
What does it mean to mantecare? It means to add butter to the cooked Risotto. Why do we do this? It gives extra flavour and shine to the rice and it makes the rice “flow” on to your spoon. Depending on the recipe, you can also add freshly grated parmesan cheese at this point.
- Let it rest
After the “mantecatura” procedure, give the risotto a break at least for two minutes.
- 1 cup of roasted squash chopped
- 150g of Gorgonzola
- 1 shallot
- 1 lt. of vegetable broth
- 40g of white wine
- 320g of Carnaroli rice
- 1 spoonful of butter/lard
- Finely chop and sauté the shallot
- Melt butter in a pan
- Toast the rice in the butter
- Add the shallots to the rice
- Pour in the white wine and mix
- Add a bit of broth at medium heat and mix well
- Keep adding broth as needed and mix
- When the rice is "al dente", lower the heat
- Add the gorgonzola and distribute evenly
- Turn off the heat
- Add the roasted squash pieces and mix
- Let it rest for two minutes