Spring-inspired ingredients like pancetta, shallots, green peas, and scallions make this creamy risotto recipe a delicious side dish to serve with seasonal entrées like roasted lamb, chicken, and baked ham.
If you’re looking for comfort food that’s a little out of the ordinary, risotto is a perfect choice. It’s light, yet satisfying, versatile in that you can flavor it in just about any way you like, and very simple to make once you learn how to cook it correctly.
The beauty of risotto is its contrasting textures. Unlike most varieties of rice that cook up to a uniform tender texture, risotto is both creamy and crunchy at the same time.
Arborio rice (the type used in risotto) is unique in that it has a hard starch center surrounded by a soft starch shell. As it cooks, that soft shell breaks down and combines with the cooking liquid to make a creamy sauce while the center remains al dente (firm to the bite).
What Goes Into a Risotto
All good risotto recipes have these four basic building blocks:
- Brodo (broth): Because arborio rice will create its own sauce during cooking, a good, flavorful broth is key to a tasty risotto. Whatever type of broth you use (chicken, vegetable, seafood, beef), it must be kept hot and added in small increments to cook your risotto properly.
- Soffritto (sautéed): Every risotto needs a mix of diced aromatics sautéed in olive oil or butter. This typically consists of onion, celery, or carrots and a bit of minced garlic.
- Riso (rice): Italian arborio rice is really the only choice for making risotto.
- Condimenti (seasonings): This is where you can get creative. Condimenti are the ingredients you add at the end of cooking and they provide the different variations of risotto. There are no rules to follow so you can feel free to add vegetables, herbs, meats, seafood, and your favorite cheese.
How to Cook Risotto
- In a small saucepan, bring your broth to a slow simmer over medium heat.
- In a separate, larger saucepan heat olive oil or butter over medium heat, add your aromatics (onion, garlic, etc.), and sauté until soft and fragrant.
- Add the rice and stir to thoroughly coat with the oil. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then stir in a little broth or dry white wine and bring to a low simmer.
- Add 1/2 cup of the hot broth and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the broth has been absorbed.
- Keep adding broth in 1/2 cup increments, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more.
- Tip: A good way to be sure the broth has been properly absorbed is to drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan to make a path. If you can still see the pan for a second or two as you do this, you’ll know your broth has been absorbed. If the path fills in immediately behind your spoon, you need a little more time before you add more liquid.
- Stir continually while the rice cooks and season to taste with salt and pepper two or three times during the process.
- Total cooking time for most arborio rice is 18 to 25 minutes, but start tasting at the 15-minute mark and stop adding broth when you’re happy with the texture. Unlike most other varieties of rice, arborio will always be somewhat firm to the bite.
- Once the rice is cooked to your liking, stir in your desired flavorings and cook for 1 more minute to heat through. Top with grated cheese (we like Parmigiano-Reggiano) and serve immediately.
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- 1/2 lb arborio rice
- 2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 lb pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons cream, or milk
- 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 2 scallions, chopped
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- In a small saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a slow simmer over medium heat.
- In a separate, larger saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Drain all but 3 tablespoons of fat from the pan (if you don’t have enough, add a bit more olive oil).
- Add the shallot to the pancetta and continue cooking, stirring often, until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the rice and stir to thoroughly coat with the oil. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then stir in the wine and bring to a simmer.
- Add 1/2 cup of the hot broth and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the broth has been absorbed. Keep adding broth in 1/2 cup increments, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more (see notes below).
- You’ll need to stir continually while the risotto cooks and season to taste with salt and pepper two or three times during the process.
- Total cooking time is approximately 18 to 20 minutes, but start tasting after about 15 minutes and stop adding broth when you’re happy with the texture. Unlike most other varieties of rice, arborio will always be somewhat firm to the bite.
- Once the rice is cooked to your liking, stir in the cream, peas and scallions and cook for 1 more minute to heat through. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and serve immediately.
- This recipe can be doubled to make 8 servings.
Tips for Making This Recipe
- As the risotto cooks and the exterior starch begins to break down, it’s sometimes hard to determine when the last broth addition has been fully absorbed. One good way to tell is to drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan to make a path.
- If you can still see the bottom of the pan for a second or two as you draw the spoon across, the broth has been absorbed. If it fills in immediately behind your spoon, you need to cook a little longer before adding more liquid.