Risotto: A Crash Course

April 20, 2008 | By | Comments (1)

I learned about risotto from a man (let’s call him Lucky) who
once drove into a house. One of those big, old New England homes with no front yard, built right on the street. (Which is why it bears
blame, at least if you ask Lucky.)

At the time, Lucky was a talented sous chef at a highly regarded
fine dining restaurant, and known among cooks in the area as something of a
risotto master. But like some professional cooks, he also had a knack for

It was a late-night collision. He lost control of his car and
plowed into the front porch, which helped soften the blow to the living room. Nobody
was seriously hurt. The house was unoccupied, and Lucky walked (or more likely dashed)
away from the wreck. Thanks to the four-door piece of evidence he left at the
scene, local police soon tracked him down. I don’t recall the upshot, though I
think he may have been relieved of his license for a little while. 

Still, the incident will never tarnish Lucky’s professional reputation.
Personally, I won’t spend a night on the town with him, but I’ll gladly eat his
risotto any time.

Risotto, Lucky’s Way:

No recipe here, just a few valuable tips gleaned from a pro.
I can’t promise you’ll become a disciple to the method, but I can tell you
these things make a difference…


  • First, soften your
    beyond tender, to the point where they have no bite left. To do this
    without browning them requires the lowest heat and occasional stirring for 20
    minutes or so. Adding some salt at the start will help keep them from
    caramelizing. In the end, the onions will practically dissolve into the risotto
    starch, making the flavor more complex and satisfying.
  • Try Carnaroli rice.
    Preferable to Arborio in various ways, Carnaroli cooks more evenly and produces
    a creamier risotto. It also cooks faster and absorbs more liquid, so if you’re
    cooking from a recipe that calls for Arborio, you may want to have a little
    extra cooking liquid on hand. Carnaroli is more expensive, but if risotto is
    important to you, it’s worth every penny.  
  • Beat that rice like
    it owes you money
    . Some cooks give the rice a lazy occasional stir, just
    enough to keep it from sticking to the bottom. You need more friction. Constant,
    vigorous stirring rubs the grains against each other and gives off the starch
    that creates risotto’s prized creaminess. Consider it your premeal workout, and
    a justification for a dollop of…
  • Truffle butter or
    marscapone to finish
    .  If your diet
    allows for it, stirring in a touch of either (or yes, even both) of these
    ingredients just before serving makes the dish absolutely irresistible.
    Indulgent? Perhaps. Reckless? Hardly. It’s not like you’re driving into a house
    or something. 


  1. Alysha

    I tried Cooking Light’s risotto with porcini and mascarpone and it was out of this world. Delicious! I’ve not seen truffle butter, but I love using truffle oil in risotto. My risotto tip: I used to end up with gummy risotto quite often until I started tasting my rice frequently as I stirred. What I found was that the rice was done long before I had used up all of the stock/liquid that most recipes call for. Now I use a lot less liquid and I rarely have gummy risotto anymore.

    May 7, 2008 at 8:37 pm

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