This is something I’ve been making for years, and it still gets better every time. It’s not hard but there are a few things that are important to make it good. Follow these steps and you’ll end up with a soft, creamy, and buttery dish with great light flavors. Risotto makes a good base for many different ingredients but this is our favorite risotto recipe.
The type of rice makes a difference in the flavor and texture. I could make it sound refined and complicated by saying “use only the finest grains of Arborio from the south of Italy!”. But every type of short-grain white rice I’ve used has worked. Brown varieties can work too, but take longer to cook. The starch in short-grain rices comes out as you cook so you end up with a thick liquid instead of just having it look like rice in water. With the creamy broth and soft rice it makes a very smooth dish that can be a side or a full meal.
The cooking technique you use can vary quite a bit. Apparently some people are scared of having to stir it constantly but even without doing that you can make a great dish. Mark Bittman describes it as keeping the right balance of rice and liquid over high heat and stirring regularly, which works for me. I find that I don’t want to go much longer than a minute without stirring it.
I recently learned to pre-cook the rice. This makes it a lot easier to get it nice, soft, and creamy. You could do this step ahead of time or even pre-cook most of the dish. It seems to get better a couple of days after it’s cooked.
This is a classic risotto with some nice light flavors. There are many other things you can add from asparagus to peas. I also like another risotto with mushrooms instead of sausage and leek. Or you could make a simple risotto by taking out the sausage and reducing or removing the leek or replacing it with onion. And that’s just scratching the surface of the possibilities if you get creative.
Total time: 45 to 60 minutes
- 1 1/2 cups short-grain white rice such as Arborio
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 small leek or 1/2 of a large leek (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped)
- 1-2 lb sausage (not too strong – italian sausage works well)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more to put on top
- 3 tbsp butter or more – you can use up to 1/3 cup if you want more flavor
- 1-2 tbsp dried basil
- Juice of 1 lemon, about 1/3 – 1/2 cup (optional but recommended)
- 1/2 cup good grated mozzarella cheese (optional)
- 1 tbsp lemon zest (optional)
- 3 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)
- A pinch of saffron (optional)
- Salt and pepper
How to cook it:
- Put 2 cups of chicken stock in a pot, bring it to a boil, add the rice, turn the heat to low, and cover. After 10-15 minutes when there is no more liquid at the bottom of the pot, take it off the heat.
- While the rice cooks, cut up the leek and parsley, zest and juice the lemon if you’re using it, and cut the sausage into slices about 1/2 inch thick.
Put a large pan (a 12-14 inch skillet will work, although you might find it easier to use a pot with higher sides) on medium-high heat and add the sausage when it’s hot. Stir occasionally to cook the sausage evenly.
- After 7-10 minutes, when the sausage is starting to brown, add the chopped leek and stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes.
- When the leek starts to soften, add the pre-cooked rice and 1/2 cup wine. You might want to increase the heat to high for a couple of minutes to keep things going. Add a pinch of saffron if you’re using it. Stir the mixture.
- Put the remaining 4 cups of chicken stock in the rice pot and turn the heat to high. When it starts to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low so it just bubbles a bit.
Keep stirring the rice in the pan at least once a minute to avoid sticking. When there isn’t much liquid at the bottom, take a ladle-full of chicken stock from the pot and add it to the pan. If it sounds like it’s frying the rice, you probably need a bit more liquid in the pan. If you add too much liquid it might not cook as well but you can just wait until the level goes down.
- Keep stirring and gradually adding the stock this way until you’ve used it all up (10-20 minutes). The rice should be soft and have a kind of creamy texture between grains. If you want to cook it more you can use more chicken stock or water.
- Add 1 – 2 tbsp basil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, the butter, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, and 1/2 cup mozzarella if you’re using it. Stir to combine everything.
- Top with the chopped parsley and additional parmesan if you want, and season with salt and pepper.
Follow these steps and you’ll have a delicious risotto. Once you master the basics it’s time to start trying different things. Like a pizza, you can make risotto with just about anything you feel like adding.
This recipe is brought to you by The Foodha Blog.