Basic Risotto

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups aromatics:
–onions
–shallots
–leeks

2 cups Arborio rice

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon saffron steeped in 1/2 cup water or broth for 5 minutes (optional)

5-7 cups broth or water

1 -2 choices of foundation vegetables or seafood:
–2 cups sauteed leeks, thinly sliced, white part only
–2 cups sauteed zucchini, cut into strips
–2 cups sauteed asparagus cut in 1-inch pieces
–1 pound seeded, roasted butternut squah, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
–1 pound medium raw shrimp
–1 pound bay scallops
–6 ounces crumbled, cooked sausage

Finishing Ingredients (choose one or more [optional]:
–2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
–2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
–2-3 tablespoons chopped basil
–3-5 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
–1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
–1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
–1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

AND [optional]
–2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil

AND [optional]
–1/2-1 1/2 cups grated parmesan, grana padano, or pecorino romano or toscano


Measure out all ingredients. Bring broth almost to a boil in a large pot. Reduce to very low. Liquid should stay hot but not simmer.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat in 3- or 4-quart straight-sided saute pan at least 10 inches wide or a similar sized Dutch oven. Add aromatics and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook slowly, stirring frequntly with a wooden ssppon, until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and lower heat to medium low. Continue cooking until water is gone and aromatics are soft and glistening but not brown, about 5-10 minutes more.

Add 2 cups rsiotto and raise heat to medium. Cook stirring constantly, to coat rice with oil and toast slightly, about 3 minutes. This will keep it from becoming mushy. Toasted rice should be white and glistening, but you should hear a clicking sound when you stir it. Add 1 cup wine and cook, stirring constantly, until it is mostly absorbed, 2-3 minutes. Add saffron if using.

Ladle 1 1/2 to 2 cups hot broth to barely cover the rice and stir constantly. Add 1/2 teaspooon salt and adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer; keep stirring. When all liquid has been absorbed and rice is dry enough that your spoon leaves a trail showing the bottom of the pot, ladle in another cup. Continue adding in 1 cup increments until rice is nearly but not fully al dents; usually 12-16 minutes after first addition of liquid.

When rice is a few minutes from al dente, add foundation vegetables or seafood. Continue stirring and ladling broth.

After addition of least 5 cups of broth (16-20 minutes from first addition) taste rice to determine whether it is al dente and creamy. If so, remove from heat. Otherwise, cook longer, adding as much as 7 cups of broth. Stir in finishing ingredients and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

Pairings (adapted from Fine Cooking):

Don’t pair seafood with cheese, use olive oil as finishing ingredient.

Saffron and shrimp pair well, with olive oil as a finisher.

Sausage and leek pair well, with butter and parmesan as a finisher.

Asparagus and scallions pair well, with oilve oil and pecorino as a finisher.

Mark Bittman’s Bitten column incorporates beets: To do this, use any standard recipe for a plain risotto ? don?t include saffron. About halfway through the estimated cooking time, add a big raw beet, peeled and cut into nearly three-quarter-inch chunks. Do not use cheese to finish this, just butter.

Uses for leftover risotto (From Fine Cooking): Make fried rice balls (arancine) by molding risotto into golfball-size pieces. Poke a hole in the ball and fill it with chopped meat or cheese. Seal the hole with rice, roll the rice ball in beaten egg, toss it in flour, and fry.

Make risotto cakes (tortine de riso) by shaping flat cakes about 3/4 inch thick, dredging in breadcrumbs and saut?ing in olive oil until golden brown.

Thicken soups or broth with leftover risotto.