The best basic risotto recipe – use Denise’s formula for a most amazing meal.
Our recipe focus here comes in two parts: The Best Basic Risotto Technique & Formula followed by The Best Basic Risotto recipe itself.
It’s important to fully understand the risotto method to achieve rice greatness, so don’t skip over the technique section. In fact, Denise says to read every recipe twice before making it to become better in the kitchen.
Once you have your risotto method down make any number of favorite risotto recipes – veg, chicken, prawns, and more. For our virtual lesson, we used what was in the fridge – asparagus and sausage. I was out of fresh mushrooms but had dried on hand, so Denise taught me how to use them – and, take advantage of the broth created from the soak time.
I’ve made risotto a few times in my life and I definitely found Denise’s risotto method the easiest to follow. At my munchkin’s request, I made it again on my own the week after my virtual lesson. Success! He was equally pleased – and, I had fresh mushrooms this time to try the other way.
And, don’t forget to check out our recommendations for pairing wine with risotto at the end!
Highlights from my basic risotto method lesson with Denise:
- If you don’t have fresh mushrooms, don’t worry! Soak some dried ones for about an hour, but make sure to keep the water to use toward the end of this risotto method.
- Denise cautions that generally there are fine bits of sand in dried mushrooms. Not at all pleasant on the teeth, so she suggests using a very fine strainer lined with moistened muslin or coffee filter to remove them.
- The two types of rice to use for your easy risotto recipe are Arborio and Canaroli.
- The risotto method is pretty strict but quite versatile. Make any number of favorite risotto recipes by just going through your refrigerator and cupboards. But, don’t overdo it with ingredients as you don’t want to overwhelm the palate.
- The timer is your friend. Once you set it, watch religiously for adding liquid to ensure the rice cooks just right.
The Best Basic Risotto Method: Technique & Formula
Basic Risotto Formula
- ½ cup rice per person
- 2 cups broth per every ½ cup of rice
- 1 small onion per cup of rice, very finely and evenly diced
- 1 small clove garlic per cup of rice
- ½ cup of grated Parmiggiano per cup of rice (do less if you prefer less cheese)
- 1 tbs butter per cup of rice
- In figuring how much rice to use, take into consideration that adding other elements like vegetables and / or meat will increase the yield considerably. Therefore, 2 cups of rice makes enough for six people.
- In calculating for four people, 1.5 cups is plenty. Depending on what you add, you may have leftovers. That's ok. While Italians would never agree with making any more risotto than you eat immediately, I love having some left to quickly heat in the microwave for a quick snack or easy meal.
- Be careful about how you heat it up. Know that the texture will not be what it should be for any self-respecting Italian. But great for those of us who love leftovers!
- A word about broth: making stock or broth doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out process. It can be as simple as a couple of chicken breasts cooked in 8 cups or so of water with a piece of carrot and celery tossed in. A good trick is to cook the breasts or a couple of legs in a large carton of chicken broth. Even the carton broth by itself makes a wonderful risotto, especially if you are adding two or three elements to the finished risotto.
The Best Basic Risotto Recipe
- 1½ cup rice (Arborio or Canaroli)
- 6 cups broth
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 small onion finely, evenly diced
- 1 clove garlic, grated on Microplane
- fresh herb (as needed)
- 2 tbs olive oil for sauteeing
- 3 tbs butter
- ¾ cup grated Parmiggiano
- Start your broth in a small saucepan over medium heat. In the time it takes to make the onion and garlic base, your broth is ready to go.
- Finely dice the onion and grate the garlic on a medium-sized Microplane. In a heavy bottomed-wide, steep-sided dutch oven, heat the olive oil and gently sauté' the diced onion and garlic, taking care not to brown them, stirring frequently. It is important to sauté' the vegetables slowly to develop the flavor, cook off the harshness of both the onion and garlic and to develop their sweetness. If you hurry this step too much, the risotto will not have the depth that makes the dish truly great, and the onions and garlic will be harsh, instead of haunting and deeply flavorful. This step should take about 7 to 8 minutes.
- Add the rice to the onion mixture and “toast” the rice, stirring constantly until it becomes slightly translucent and you see a point of white in each kernel - about 3 minutes. Take care to not let the onion brown. Turn down the heat slightly if needed.
- Turn up the heat slightly and add the ½ cup of white wine, stirring constantly and rather vigorously. Sweep your wooden spoon across the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent sticking, or at least to impede the rice sticking so it does not start to burn.
- Now, set your timer for 16 minutes. Once the rice has absorbed the wine and when the pot is quite dry, add 1.5 cups of the hot broth, or two ladles full, continuing to stir vigorously, loosening any rice that has started to stick in spots incorporating it well into the mass. The surface of the rice and broth should bubble evenly but not so much that the broth evaporates instead of being absorbed by the rice. Conversely, if the rice is not bubbling vigorously enough, the rice will just steam and become mushy before it is done.
- Continue to add 1 cup of broth each time the rice has absorbed all the liquid, adjusting the heat to achieve the correct balance. After adding about 3 or 4 cups of broth, taste the rice to get a sense of how it is cooking and to understand the general seasoning level.
- Add another cup or two, reserving ½ cup for the finishing process. Taste for doneness. The rice should be al dente or offer some resistance to the tooth but not chalky.
- When the rice is tender but still quite toothsome, you'll need to work quickly to do the finishing process. Call everyone to the table and put your plates in the oven to warm.
- Add only about ¼ cup of the remaining broth. Stir well to incorporate and make sure the rice is bubbling well. Taking the pot off the stove, add the butter and vigorously stir in circles while shaking the pan back and forth to incorporate and “mount” the butter. Add the Parmigiano and continue to stir vigorously.
- At this point, you can add cooked vegetables cut into small pieces and cubed chicken or prawns.
- Taste for seasoning. Add a pinch or two of salt if needed. If the risotto has thickened up a bit and it has the tendency to do so, add a bit of the reserved ¼ broth until the risotto is “easy” but not soupy. Serve immediately.
We’ve started a collection of favorite risotto recipes.
Risotto wine pairing
Wine for risotto is heavily dependent on the risotto method and ingredients. So, you have a lot of options, from red to white. Pinot Noir and fuller-bodied whites go well.
And, mushroom gives such divine earthy flavors that you can’t go wrong with our favorite wine – nebbiolo: Langhe Nebbiolo, Roero Rosso or Roero Riserva, Barbarbaresco of Barolo.
My risotto wine pairing with the asparagus, sausage, and mushroom version was rouchet / ruché by Scarpa. A lesser-known varietal wine from the Monferrato, it gives fruit and delicate notes of spices with a long finish. The complexity of this wine with the fruity notes made it a great compliment to the asparagus risotto.
For week two with zucchini (instead of asparagus), the wine for risotto that I selected was also Scarpa, a freisa secco. Today you find a lot of frizzante freisa on the market – like the one I paired with The Ultimate Spring Stew, but some producers, like Scarpa keep it still. And, little known fact, freisa is thought to be a parent to nebbiolo, so it was great with risotto.
Let us know your favorite risotto recipes!
And, have some fun in your kitchen using this best basic risotto recipe.