This is the master technique for making risotto. Once you are happy that you can manage this, then you can start to experiment with the endless list of possible additions to risotto.

The dish can be cooked from start to finish and eaten immediately or it may be partly cooked ahead of time for finishing later.
If you are pre-cooking the risotto to finish cooking later, you must remove it from the pan while there is still a good bite in the grains of rice and spread it out on a flat tray to cool as quickly as possible. Finish the risotto as directed below.

Ingredients:

  • A well flavoured chicken stock gives the best flavour to this risotto
  • Carnaroli rice is my choice here, though Arboria will do quite well too
  • Grate parmesan cheese freshly for the risotto, rather than buying the pre-grated cheese which never tastes as sweet and delicious.
  • 1-1.3 litres chicken stock
  • 25g butter
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • 150ml dry white wine (optional)
  • 400g Carnaroli or Arboria rice

Finishing the risotto:

  • 40g cold butter, diced
  • 55g freshly grated parmesan
  • Sea salt

Method:

  1. Bring the stock to a boil, turn down the heat and keep it barely simmering. Keep a long handled ladle in the stock. 
  2. Melt 25g of butter in a heavy bottomed and low sided saucepan. Add the onion and sweat on a gentle heat until the onion is softened but not colored.
  3. Add the rice and stir until it is well coated. Cook for a minute or so. Increase the heat and add the wine if using, and allow it to evaporate completely. Now, using a ladle, add enough simmering stock to barely cover the rice. It will and should splutter a little bit.
  4. Stir continuously with a flat bottomed wooden spoon, and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another similar portion of the stock and continue as before. Do not allow the pot to go dry at any stage. At all times the risotto should simmer well, rather than boiling furiously. Furious boiling causes the rice to soften on the outside and remain too chewy inside and you may end up with the rice and sauce as separate entities, which is completely wrong. The cooked rice should be cloaked in its own sauce, not  a mound of rice sitting in a pool of sauce. Cooking the rice too slowly, will make it gluey. 
  5. If you are pre-cooking the rice for finishing later, you will need to start tasting the rice after about 10 minutes of cooking. About two thirds of the stock will have been added. Taste a grain or two of rice between your teeth. It should be firm, slightly gritty, definitely undercooked, but not completely raw. Immediately this stage is reached, remove from the saucepan and spread it out on a flat dish to cool as quickly as possible. At a later stage, the rice can be reheated with some of the remaining stock, again at a simmer, and the cooking and finishing of the risotto completed.
  6. After about 20 minutes of cooking, when most of the broth has been added and the rice is approaching al dente, add the stock a few tablespoons at a time. The consistency should now be soft and creamy and quite loose. Taste a grain or two of the rice. The texture of the rice now should now have just a gentle hint of resistance when you taste it. When you are happy that this stage has been reached, remove the pan from the heat for 1 minute, before stirring in the remaining butter and the parmesan. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve immediately with grated parmesan. 

Risotto variations:


Risotto of Cavolo nero or Curly kale:

Ingredients as above plus Cavolo nero. 

  1. Remove the tough central rib from the cavolo nero or the curly kale and discard.
  2. Cook the leaves uncovered in a large saucepan of well salted, boiling water until very tender. This is really important so as the greens are both tender and vibrant and melt beautifully into the finished risotto while not tasting in any way tough.
  3. Strain the tender leaves from the cooking water and gently but thoroughly press out the excess liquid.
  4. Chop the cooked leaves to a medium size.
  5. Spread out on a wide flat tray and allow to cool as quickly as possible. Do not be tempted to run them under the cold tap as it dulls the flavour.  
  6. Chop the cooked leaves and add to the risotto before the addition of the butter and parmesan at the end. Make sure the greens are heated through before adding in the butter and parmesan to finish the risotto.

Wild Mushroom Risotto:

Ingredients as above plus

  • 250g wild mushrooms such as chanterelles, ceps or trompettes de mort.
  • 20g butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Pick over the mushrooms to ensure they are properly cleaned and depending on the size of the variety being used, slice, chop or leave as they are.
  2. Melt 20g of butter in a sauté pan and add the chopped garlic. Allow it to stew and soften in the butter on a low heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté on a gentle heat until tender. Season with salt and pepper with cover until you are ready to add them to the risotto with the chopped parsley
  3.  Add to the risotto at the end of cooking, just before the addition of the butter and parmesan.