Risotto with green peppercorns, from The Good Cook's Book of Salt & Pepper. Photograph by Liza Gershman

Risotto with green peppercorns, from The Good Cook’s Book of Salt & Pepper. Photograph by Liza Gershman

Today’s Seasonal Pantry, which you can read here, includes a recipe for risotto cakes with warm fava vinaigrette but without a recipe for risotto. As promised, here is my basic recipe.

 

Basic Pantry Risotto • Serves 3 to 4

You should be able to make a good risotto at the drop of a hat, merely by opening your pantry and pulling out these few ingredients. It’s a nice thing to be able to do when a friend drops by unexpectedly and you’d like to offer dinner. You’ll notice that bacon fat is given as an optional ingredient. I remember that my grandmother always had a small metal canister of it on the stove, to which she’d add the pan drippings whenever she cooked bacon. Sometimes, she’d taken out a spoon or two, melt it in her cast iron frying pan, and brown onions or meat in it. Bacon fat adds a rich, smoky element to any risotto; I often use half butter and half bacon fat.

  • 5 to 6 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter, or bacon fat
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into small dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper in a mill
  • 1 1/4 cup Vialone Nano or Carnaroli Rice
  • 3 ounces dry jack, Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged Asiago, or other hard cheese, grated
  • ¼ cup minced Italian parsley, or 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs (oregano, thyme, marjoram, and chives)
  1. Heat the butter or bacon fat in a medium-sized pan set over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and sauté until it is soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until each grain begins to turn milky white, about 2 minutes.
  3. Keep the stock warm in a pot over low heat.
  4. Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until the liquid is nearly absorbed.
  5. Continue to add stock and stir until the rice is tender, about 16 to 20 minutes total cooking time.
  6. When the rice is tender, stir in the cheese and parsley or other herbs, taste, and correct the seasoning.
  7. Stir in a final 1/4 cup of stock, ladle into soup plates, and serve immediately.

Tips For Perfect Risotto 

•Carnaroli and Vialone Nano both produce excellent risottos. Vialone Nano is the creamiest. Arborio, the most common, is fine but not as creamy as the other two.

•Use a deep heavy-bottomed pot that conducts heat evenly.

•Stock is key. Its flavor is absorbed by the rice and any flaws—too much salt, for example, or a metallic taste from canned broth—will be concentrated. If you use canned chicken broth, choose low-sodium without other seasonings and dilute one 14-ounce can with enough water to make the 4 to 6 cups called for in most recipes. If using boxed broth, use 1 1/2 cups and save the rest for another purpose. If you have the time, make a large batch of chicken stock, strain it, reduce it by half, cool, and store it in the freezer in two cup portions. Two cups can be diluted for the amount necessary for a single batch of risotto. Before beginning the risotto, bring the stock to a boil and reduce it to a slow simmer.

•Heat should be high enough that the rice does not stew in the broth, but low enough that the liquid does not evaporate the moment it hits the pan. If making risotto on an electric stove, have two burners going, one on medium-low, one on medium high. Switch the pan back and forth as necessary to control the temperature.

•If you run out of broth or stock before the rice is tender, add water to the remaining liquid and be sure it is simmering before adding it to the rice.

•Risotto should not be thick and gummy, nor should it be runny. It should be loose enough to fall from a spoon. For the best texture, add a final 1/4 cup of hot liquid immediately before serving.

•The best dish in which to serve risotto is a broad, low soup plate.

•To reheat leftover risotto, place it in a heavy saucepan, add a little water or stock, and stir gently until it is hot.