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A step-by-step guide to the perfect risotto.

Preparing the perfect risotto is a real art form. The rice mustn’t have too much bite, but it mustn’t be mushy, either. A few tips and a little practice go a long way to achieving the ideal consistency, where every grain is creamy soft and yet still pleasantly al dente.

Rice, stock and Parmesan

Risotto is one of the best known rice dishes in Italian cuisine. Its quality depends significantly on the basic ingredients, which are essentially rice, stock and Parmesan. The dish calls for a special type of risotto rice to be used, with the most common varieties being Arborio, Vialone and Carnaroli. The rice needs to be dry when making risotto. Washing it causes much of the starch attached to the grains to be lost, and this is important for the creamy texture.

Preparation is key

The classic method involves sweating down finely diced shallots in a little olive oil in a large pan. The risotto rice is then added and stirred with a wooden spoon until the rice also starts to become a little transparent. Toasting the grains briefly in this way binds the starch and prevents the grains from sticking together. The pan can then be deglazed with a glass of dry white wine. Chicken or vegetable stock can be added to the pan once the wine has boiled away. The stock should be boiling hot so as not to delay the cooking process, and the amount of liquid added should cover the rice completely. The risotto can now be left to simmer on a medium heat for around 20 to 30 minutes until all of the liquid has been soaked up. Stirring the mixture every so often prevents the grains from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The pan can now be taken off the heat to stir a knob of butter and some freshly grated Parmesan through the rice. Finally, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Variations of the dish

The basic recipe can be adapted to taste with additional ingredients such as mushrooms, mixed vegetables, fresh seafood and different types of cheese. Spices such as saffron, pepper, allspice and fresh herbs can also lend the dish an aromatic note. If your risotto doesn’t turn out perfectly the first time, there’s no need to worry. Practice always makes perfect – even when cooking.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de