What is Risotto? An Introduction to Italy’s Iconic Rice Dish

Italy is famous all around the world for some of its iconic dishes, one of which is risotto. Risotto is an Italian rice dish traditional to the region of Veneto and is incredibly popular amongst Italians. Understanding what risotto is, what different types are available and the best way to prepare it, are all essential components to this iconic Tuscan delicacy.

What is Risotto?

Risotto is a classic Italian side dish prepared with short-grain, starchy Arborio rice. It is popular throughout the country, but is especially common in the Veneto region of Italy. The most common preparation of risotto is with parmigiano-reggiano cheese, which is mixed in as the rice is slowly cooked. The key to risotto is its creaminess, which is achieved by slowly adding stock (often a chicken or vegetable stock) to the rice and letting it simmer. If done correctly, when eating risotto the kernels can still be felt in the mouth, while at the same time creamy and succulent.

Risotto is incredibly versatile, and can be prepared with different ingredients to give it a distinct flavour. Generally, risotto is accompanied or topped with different ingredients such as truffles, mushrooms, seafood and other vegetables. To give a classic Italian flavour, parmesan cheese, garlic, and sometimes onion, are added as well.

Different Types of Risotto

The most popular type of risotto is the classic cheese and butter risotto, but there are many types of risotto that are popular around the world. Here are some types of risotto to enjoy:

• Mushroom Risotto: This is a very popular variation of the classic risotto, which includes mushrooms as the main ingredient. Different varieties of mushrooms can be used for this type of risotto, such as white button, cremini, portabello, and shiitake, to give it a unique taste.

• Seafood Risotto: A seafood risotto combines al dente rice with a variety of seafood such as clams, mussels, calamari and shrimp.

• Truffle Risotto: To give a luxurious and delicate flavour, truffle risotto is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. It can be prepared with white or black truffles, depending on the taste preference.

• Artichoke Risotto: Artichokes are another common ingredient used to prepare risotto. The addition of artichokes adds a delicious nutty taste to the dish and can be a simple, yet traditional addition to the risotto.

• Asparagus Risotto: Asparagus and risotto go hand-in-hand, with the addition of this ingredient giving the risotto a delicate, earthy flavour.

• Vegetable Risotto: For a vegetarian dish, a vegetable risotto is a great choice. This style of risotto usually includes carrots, peas and other vegetables.

How to Make Risotto

Making a perfect risotto can take some practice, but it’s a great skill to have in the kitchen. Traditional recipes use arborio rice, stock and parmigiano-reggiano cheese, as well as other ingredients such as onions and garlic, depending on personal preference.

Here is the essential step by step guide for making a perfect risotto:

  1. Gather the necessary ingredients: Arboiro rice, chicken or vegetable stock, parmesan cheese, butter, onion, garlic, white wine, olive oil and other ingredients for flavour, such as mushrooms, vegetables and seafood.

  2. Heat the broth: Heat the broth on the stove in a small pot, until it is hot but not boiling, and keep it at a low simmer.

  3. In a separate pot, heat the butter and olive oil: This will be used to cook the onions and garlic.

  4. Saute the onions and garlic: Saute until the onions are soft and has a slight brown colour.

  5. Add the Arborio rice: Stir the rioc until it is well-coated with the butter and olive oil, and cook for a few minutes until it becomes translucent.

  6. Deglaze with white wine: Pour the white wine over the rice, and continue stirring until all of the liquid has been absorbed.

  7. Add the hot broth: Start by adding about a cup of hot broth to the pot and stirring constantly until it is absorbed by the rice. From here, keep adding the broth in small increments as the risotto cooks.

  8. Add the flavourings: When the risotto is almost cooked through and creamy, add in other flavourings. This could be anything from mushrooms, truffles, seafood, artichokes, etc.

  9. Finish the risotto: After all of the liquid has been absorbed, reduce the heat, add the parmesan cheese, and butter and stir until the cheese and butter is melted.

  10. Enjoy: Serve the risotto hot, with a topping of cheese, or with a salad or a side-dish.

Risotto is one of Italy’s classic dishes and is sure to bring a little bit of Italian culture to any dinner table. With its creamy, succulent texture and delightful flavour, it’s no wonder it has become such a staple in the country. From seafood risotto, to mushroom and artichoke risotto, this classic Italian side dish is perfect for any meal. With a few simple steps, risotto can be cooked to perfection in no time, bringing a touch of Italy to every kitchen.