Risotto 101

Nothing beats a delicious rich and creamy risotto dish! Even though you may be imagining a fancy high-end restaurant, it’s really the epitome of homemade Italian comfort food. If you’ve never made it before or are looking to improve, we’ll let you in on a few essential details for making a great risotto dish. It all comes down to using the right rice, the ingredients you add and the time it takes to cook. Make sure to get the right headcount for how many people you’ll need to feed so that you can use the right proportions of rice to broth – you’ll also want to make enough for seconds! 

A mushy, crunchy or undercooked rice dish may put some off of cooking and eating rice altogether! Getting the consistency of your dish may seem hard at first, but it all comes down to the right rice and technique. Although it may be up to personal taste, there is a standard amount of time that your risotto will need to cook in order to taste delicious. Let us help you impress yourself and your family by preparing a great risotto recipe. 

Cilantro Cream Risotto with Shrimp
Creamy Risotto with Cilantro & Shrimp

The Right Grain 

To make risotto, you’ll need to start off with the right rice. Rice comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, but we recommend Carolina® Arborio Medium Grain, which is specially crafted for risotto.

Unlike long-grain rice, medium-grain rice has a higher starch content, perfect for risotto, because when cooked, it releases that starch and when simmered with broth and stirred, it thickens giving it that signature creamy and more compact texture without needing butter and cheese – but keep it handy for an extra delicious taste anyway! If you use long grain rice without as much starch, it won’t achieve that same special texture. 

Rice to Broth Ratio

Now that you’ve got the rice sorted, you’ll need to create a base for your dish by sauteing the chopped onion and garlic in oil or butter until they turn translucent. This is the time to add in the rice to toast it in your base flavors. Stir it around for a minute and then add in the white wine and continue to stir another few minutes until the alcohol cooks off. Afterward, slowly add in the hot broth, one bit at a time (about a ladle full or 1 cup full).

Making sure that you have the right rice to broth ratio is a highly important part of the process to keep your rice the right consistency. Remember, there will always be 3 times as much broth as rice–if you use 1 cup of rice you will need at least 3 cups of broth. 

We’ve made a simple chart to measure for the right serving sizes: 

  • Risotto for two people: ¾ cup of rice, at least 2 ¼ cups of broth.
  • Risotto for four people: 1.5 cups of rice, at least 4.5 cups of broth or a little over 1 liter.
  •  Risotto for six people: 2.5 cups of rice, 7.5 cups of broth, almost 2 liters.
Butternut Squash Risotto
Butternut Squash Risotto

Cook Time

Don’t let anyone fool you, even great risotto chefs will say that it should take only about 16 to 18 minutes for the rice granules to release their starch and for the middle to maintain a bit of a chewy texture. If you like your rice slightly more al dente, reduce the cooking time, but make sure to test your rice before taking off the heat, as arborio can trick you with a creamy texture on the outside but hard nucleus on the inside. 

Although the 16 to 18 minutes are a general rule of thumb, you’ll need to take into consideration things like the amount of rice, level of heat and the type of pan or skillet you use. Keep an eye on your rice and test it out when you think it might be finished to gauge your next step. 

The cook time will generally stay the same regardless of the additional ingredients you add-in or the recipe of choice. Once you’ve mastered the basics of a Creamy Mushroom Risotto, you can move onto more complex flavors and cooking styles like Eggs Benedict Risotto

Broth Choice

Broth or water? Either can be used, it all comes down to your choice of flavor, but just make sure that the flavors complement the dish, i.e. using a chicken broth with chicken or similar flavors. Feel free to use beef, vegetable, chicken or even lobster or bone broth. 

The most important part is using just enough broth (about a ladle full) and stirring it in each time. Pour in just enough to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom but don’t drown it. This helps the rice to release as much starch as possible while stirring to give your rice the creamiest texture possible.

Try your hand at a risotto recipe today and test out your skills, experience is the very best teacher, so get cooking!