Italy: Risotto, a Worthy Addiction

“Rice is born in water and dies in wine.” – Italian Proverb

I have a confession to make, I am an absolute risotto addict. There are very few Western meals in the world that make me want to lick my plate clean but risotto is most definitely one of them. And what’s not to love about this dish? To my mind risotto has got it all: it’s simple, versatile, cheap and above all, it is incredibly tasty!

Unfortunately many people, myself included, have had underwhelming experiences of ordering risotto in restaurants – they are often soupy or worse still, dry and clumpy. The unfortunate reality is that you simply shouldn’t order risotto in your average restaurant and this applies to anywhere in the world. In fact some of the most disappointing risottos I’ve ever had were in Italy of all places! Now I’m not suggesting that all restaurant risottos are bad, far from it. Some are, in fact, sublime but unless it is a speciality of the House, I wouldn’t recommend you order it. To make a excellent risotto you require one main ingredient – your undivided attention. In the frenetic environment of a professional kitchen such focused attention is unfeasible, unless they have a sous chef solely assigned to making risotto! Risotto deserves to be made well, anything less is a travesty of the dish’s potential.

The Simplicity of Risotto: I have never understood why risotto has garnered such a reputation for being tricky, when in fact quite the opposite is true. It simply takes two pots, a bit of chopping and 20 minutes of your undivided attention. Now I don’t know about you, but to my mind that is the very definition of an undemanding dish! Yes, there are some do’s and don’ts but nothing that should deter you.

The Versatility of Risotto: Risotto can be anything you want it to be; it can be served as a complete meal or as an accompaniment, it can be sophisticated or the epitome of home cooking. However, the true beauty of its versatility is that the method of making risotto stays much the same no matter what you need it to be – a risotto’s personality is all about what you put in it, not how you make it. Once you’ve cracked the basic risotto-code, there are endless variations both traditional and unconventional; mushroom risottos, seafood risottos and even Korean kimchi risottos! All tasty and all made in much the same way.

The Affordability of Risotto: Risotto is the ultimate store-cupboard meal! Provided you have the basic ingredients you can put virtually anything into a risotto. When it comes to the basic ingredients, your main expense will be the rice itself – as rice goes, it isn’t cheap but a little goes a long way and, if stored properly, it has a decent shelf-life. There is a wide variety of risotto rice available but the most common and versatile is Arborio. Beyond the rice, the only other essential ingredients are butter, a hard cheese (like parmesan or pecorino), a dash of wine and a good stock. Some onion and garlic are also typical ingredients but even these mainstays can be omitted or replaced with an alternative.

Okay, so I’ve got a lot to say on the topic of risotto but I did warn you that I’m a self-confessed addict! At any rate, I hope I’ve done my small part in convincing you that risotto is a dish worth having in your cooking arsenal, that it isn’t difficult to master and that it isn’t an expensive meal to make.

I have a number of risotto recipes on my blog, they are all variations on the basic risotto recipe. Please use this link to my Italian Recipes

The rice quantities for these recipes vary depending on the number of people you are feeding and whether you intend making the risotto as a main meal or an accompaniment. As a general rule of thumb, I use approx. 70-80ml of rice per person for a main meal and 50-60ml as an side dish. Generally, risotto recipes on my blog are based on 2 people eating a full portion.


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