Basic risotto

Risotto has always been one of my favourite dishes, also because I come from Vercelli, a small city that produces and exports a lot of rice. Making risotto is not difficult as long as you use the right rice, you cook it correctly (it’s not just boiled rice with a sauce added at the end) and, when it’s cooked, you let it sit with butter and cheese for a few minutes to make it creamy. This recipe is just a basic risotto to show you how to make a good risotto, so it’s not particularly tasty without other ingredients.

There are a lot of varieties of rice and the one for risotto needs to be rich of starch to produce a creamy result, but it should not fall apart while cooking. The most commonly used types of rice are Arborio, Carnaroli (in the picture above) and Vialone Nano. I prefer Carnaroli as it’s very rich of starch but remains firm after cooking, even if you accidentally overcook it a little bit. Vialone Nano is a very good risotto rice that absorbs the condiment well, but it doesn’t stay as firm as Carnaroli. Arborio is the most common rice for risotto, probably because it’s also the cheapest one, but it’s not as good as the others.
The brand of rice I usually buy in England is Riso Gallo Carnaroli. Despite being far from the best rice I ever tried, it’s the best that can be easily found here, but it’s twice as expensive as some Arborio rice brands.


  • 0.8 liter broth (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or 1 knob of butter)
  • 1 medium onion or 2 shallots
  • 320g risotto rice (Carnaroli, Vialone Nano or Arborio)
  • 1 small glass of white wine
  • 50g butter
  • 100g grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • ground black pepper
  • salt

Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a first course.

Heat up the broth in a pan, or prepare one if you are using fresh ingredients. A good broth is important for a basic recipe like this one, but for other recipes I usually just add some stock cubes to the rice and then add water from a kettle instead of adding the broth.

Choose a pan that would be large enough to fit the uncooked rice in a layer of 1 or 2 centimeters. Finely chop the onion or shallots and fry on low heat in the pan with a knob of butter or with the olive oil.
When the onion starts getting slightly translucent, but it’s not browned, add the rice. Turn up the heat to medium-low and fry the rice for 2 minutes stirring often. This step is needed to toast the rice so it will remain firmer when cooked.
Add the wine and stir. It should evaporate quickly.

When the wine is evaporated, add a ladle of broth. If you are as lazy as me and you are using a stock cube and water, you should add the crumbled stock cube now. Add some salt and ground black pepper.
Let the risotto absorb the water, when it’s almost completely absorbed add another ladle of broth. Keep adding broth when needed until the rice is cooked. If you run out of broth before the rice is ready, you should start adding boiling water.
The rice needs to be cooked al dente; it’s ready when it’s not hard any more but it is still firm inside. It will take about 15 or 16 minutes since you added the fist ladle of broth if you are using Carnaroli. The cooking time for Arborio is 13 or 14 minutes, and for Vialone Nano it’s 12 or 13 minutes.
Check for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper if needed.

Turn off the heat. Add the butter and Parmigiano cheese, and stir. Cover the pan and allow to sit for 2 or 3 minutes. This step, called mantecatura, is what makes good risottos so creamy.
Stir again and serve.

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