What is risotto?
The risotto dish (pronounced ‘rrrrie-SOT-toh’) originates from the north of Italy. It is made from grains of rice that are cooked in a broth and through continued stirring, gradually absorb the liquid. As soon as the grains of rice are cooked “al dente” (with some bite) butter and Parmesan cheese are added. The result is a creamy, soupy rice dish with firm grains.
The history of risotto is closely linked to the rise of rice growing in Europe. The Arabs were the first to bring rice farming to Sicily and by the fifteenth century, the crop was being grown in the north of Italy. The climate in the northern regions was perfect for short- and medium-grain rice such as carnaroli, arborio and vialone nano. The Italians embraced the ingredient, not least due to its profitability.
Although Asians and Arabs eat their rice rather dry, as pilau (rice cooked in stock with spices and other ingredients added), the Italians gave it their own twist and cooked a kind of porridge from it. The best known risotto is risotto alla Milanese, from Milan, which uses local short grain rice, combined with saffron, onion and butter.
In the hundreds of years that followed, the Italian classic has stolen the hearts of foodies worldwide. It developed into a complex casserole dish, to which many extra ingredients are added. To eat it as the Italians intended, choose at most one or two extra ingredients: frutti di mare (seafood), mushrooms, or rocket and cream.
How to make risotto?
A classic risotto alla Milanese starts with mashed saffron threads, fried in butter. When the saffron has released some of its flavour, add finely chopped onion. Add the rice and cook until the grains become translucent. Next, a splash of white wine. The heat may be slightly raised, and stir to keep the rice moist and simmering. As soon as the rice grains have absorbed the wine, gradually add tablespoons of chicken stock or beef stock and continue to heat until the rice is cooked. For an authentic risotto, it is vital that the stock is not added all at once. Finally, add butter and Parmesan cheese, allowing it to spread through the rice. Then let it rest for a few minutes, a step called mantecare.
How to eat
Straightaway! Risotto should not be kept warm. Re-heating the next day is also not recommended. This is a dish to eat immediately, at the moment that the rice grains are perfectly al dente.
Risotto alla Milanese can be eaten with ossobuco (a veal dish) to make a classic Italian combination.