Please forgive me if the odd spelling mistake creeps into the next 50 lines or so. After straining a muscle in my right forearm yesterday, I?m forced to tackle things one handed. I wish I could say I hurt my arm in a hip and stylish way like practicing hot yoga or fighting over that last pair of half priced boots but no; I did it by stirring a pot of risotto! Those creamy little grains of Arborio rice however were worth every bit of discomfort I now feel.
Why was I even bothering to stand over a stove for 45 minutes when there are so many recipes out there that advocate whacking everything into a pot and letting it do its own thing? Because of something I heard Lidia Bastianich
say about 15 years ago that has stuck with me ever since . If you don’t know who Lidia is don’t worry, it’s not so much about Lidia but what her message was. Early on in my cooking odyssey, I sat transfixed in front of the TV watching this little Italian woman showcase how to make risotto. It wasn’t the recipe that drew me in (I didn’t even know what risotto was at the time) but it was how she spoke of the love that goes into the dish as she meticulously stirred the pot. How taking 45 minutes out of her busy day was not a lot to ask of herself when it brought such love and comfort to her family. She talked about taking time to caress each grain of rice with broth to gently coax the starch out, rewarding you with a beautiful meal. Lidia compared cooking risotto to raising her children; taking time to listen to them, surrounding them in love and then watching them emerge into beautiful people.
I’m reminded of her words not just when after a long day I’m too tired to stand over a pot of risotto but every time I set out to nourish my family whether it is through food or simply spending time with them. Life is crazy and tiring but if you put the effort in, it’s amazing the reward you get back. Which leaves me with a sore arm, a delicious risotto and one happy (and well fed) family! Spoil your family today with Lidia’s recipe for Basic Risotto – just remember to switch hands every once in a while! Enjoy!
Makes 4 main-course or 8 first-course servings
Preparation Time 10 minutes
Cooking Time 45 minutes
Use this recipe as your main plan for making risotto and then once you master it be inspired by adding ingredients such as sautéed mushrooms, bacon or spinach. The texture of a properly cooked risotto is creamy, with each grain of rice separate and al dente. To achieve that, you are actually coaxing the starch gently out of the grains of rice. Adding cold stock to the risotto may cause the surfaces of the rice grains to ‘seize up’ and seal in the starch, instead of releasing it into the liquid.
1.25 Litres (5 cups) hot chicken broth or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced (about 3/4 cup)
1 medium leek, white parts only, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 to 6 green onions, white and green parts chopped separately
2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
75ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Pour the broth into a medium saucepan and keep it warm over low heat.
Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy based stock pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in the leek and the white parts of the scallions and cook, stirring, until the onion is golden, about 6 minutes. Adjust the heat under the pan as the onion browns so that it cooks slowly with gentle bubbling.
Stir in the rice and continue stirring until the grains are coated with oil and
“toasted” – the edges become translucent – 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and let it boil, stirring the rice, until evaporated. Season the rice lightly with salt and ladle enough of the hot broth into the pan to barely cover the rice. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the broth is at a lively simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, until all the broth has been absorbed and you can see the bottom of the pan when you stir. Continue cooking, pouring in the remaining hot broth in small batches – each addition should be just enough to completely moisten the rice – and cook until each batch of broth has been absorbed. Stir constantly until the rice mixture is creamy but al dente; this will take approximately 16 to 20 minutes from the time the wine was added. Adjust the level of heat throughout cooking so the rice is simmering very gently.
Remove the pan from the heat; stir in the butter and green parts of the
scallion until the butter is completely melted. Stir in half the grated cheese,
taste the risotto, and add salt, if necessary, and pepper.
To serve, ladle risotto into warm, shallow bowls and serve immediately after finishing. Either top each serving with some of the remaining grated cheese or pass the cheese separately.
*Recipe adapted from Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, 2001
Nadine Hughes is the creator and owner of, The Cook’s Companion and The Menu Companion, through
which she offers kitchen consultations, menu planning services as well as private
cooking classes for adults and teens throughout Southern
Ontario. She is also a published author and avid blogger who is
often called upon for “emergency” cooking and entertaining advice. Pick up a copy of her latest eBook “The
Groove Mamma Goes Gourmet – Easy Ways To Put The Fun Back Into Entertaining”
for $7.99 at www.groovemamma.com