Drumroll, please… It’s been a few years since I learned to make risotto, and I wish we had it more often. I love my risotto totally creamy, cheesy, and still a bit al dente in the middle. Did I mention it’s sooo good?
The most commonly used risotto rice is Arborio, or a couple of less known (at least to me) varieties like Carnaroli and Nano. During cooking the outside starch dissolves into the liquid and the interior absorbs liquid and swells. Other rices don’t behave like this and quickly get mushy and sloppy, so make sure you use the right rice. The gradual stirring and breaking down of the rice is what contributes to the release of the starch and the creaminess.
I do see how it could be reserved for a “special night” when you commit yourself to the job, but I had no problem pulling up a bar stool, glass of wine, and chatting with Greg while stirring, stirring, stirring… If you’re having company over, you can each stir for 10 minutes, that way you make your guests do some work!
Remember that the chicken stock must be heated and used while hot so that the rice is not cooking in cold stock each time it is added. You should always try to serve risotto right after making it – the rice keeps absorbing the liquid and overnighted risotto will acquire a dry, gloggy quality. Leftovers are a fact of life, so don’t fret. Just heat up some extra stock and stir into the rice. Fixed.
You can make risotto with chicken stock, or a stock and wine mixture. The remainder of flavorings are very versatile – when finished stirring, fold in your ingredients – I added pumpkin puree to this one, but you can also add peas with fresh basil and mint, pancetta, chopped asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, wilted spinach, grilled red peppers… Just keep it to a couple of ingredients, at most, less is more.
But you don’t have to stop the ideas there. A sweet risotto would be amazing – think cinnamon, brown sugar and coconut milk… hmm…
- optional: ⅓ cup cubed pancetta + 1 tbs olive oil, or butter for frying
- Edit:after some thought, I decided to remove garlic from the recipe. I think Italians will agree, too - it's not a traditional risotto ingredient!
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, divided
- 1 medium onion, preferably sweet Vidalia, finely chopped
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 6-10 cups hot chicken stock
- 3 cups homemade pumpkin puree *
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- small handful of fresh sage leaves, finely chopped, for garnish
- salt and pepper
- If using pancetta - begin by melting the olive oil, or butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the cubed pancetta and fry until golden and crispy. Drain on a paper towel and set aside. You can use the pancetta to garnish, and fold into the risotto when finished.
- Melt half of the butter in a heavy bottomed dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until softened. Add the rice and mix with the onions, continue stirring for 2-3 more minutes until the rice starts to crackle and "pop", and become translucent. Add a ladleful of chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and continue stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Keep stirring - this helps the rice release the creamy starch and gives risotto its texture. Do this with the remainder of the stock until the rice is creamy, but still slightly "al dente" in the middle - the process will take approximately 45 minutes.
- In the last 10 minutes, add the pumpkin puree and mix in well. Take off the heat and mix in the other half of the butter, the chopped sage and cheese, reserving some for garnish. Season with salt and pepper.
- Best served immediately, refrigerate any leftovers and revive by mixing in some more stock.
- * I made my own pumpkin puree, which is just sliced pumpkin cooked in the microwave, then pureed. It contains more liquid than the canned variety, so if you're using canned pumpkin start only with 1 cup, and add more until you reach desired consistency.