Risotto originated in Italy. It's actually an Italian term that describes a cooking technique used for rice. Kernels are first sautéed in a fat, usually butter. Hot liquid is then added in small batches. The rice is stirred with each liquid addition, absorbing it before more liquid is added. Starch from the rice is released into the liquid as it cooks and is responsible for the final creamy texture.
The Italians developed this dish using locally grown rice that was short-grain, plump, and very starchy. Italy's most exported of this type is called Arborio. Of course, any type of rice can be used, but starchier grains like Arborio work best.
Note: If Arborio is hard to find in your area, look for rice called short grain. Long grain rice performs poorly in this recipe.
½ cup Arborio or short grain rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium shallot, sliced thin (Or 2 tbsp. diced onion)
1 clove garlic, sliced thin (Optional)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. minced parsley (Optional)
2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts (Optional)
¼ to ½ tsp. salt to taste
Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 people with big appetites.
1 Bring broth to a very slow simmer in a small saucepan.
Note: Water, filtered vegetable broth, or white wine may be substituted for some of the chicken broth.
2 Preheat a medium-sized saucepan for one minute on low heat. Add the tbsp. oil, the shallot, and garlic. Sauté the vegetables slowly on low heat until they just begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the dry rice, stir to coat the kernels with warm infused oil, and continuing sautéing for an additional two minutes.
Note: Butter may be substituted for some or all of the oil. If butter is used, the shallot and garlic will brown sooner. Keep an eye on the vegetables and add the rice before much browning takes place.
3 Add about 1/4 cup of warm broth to the rice, or enough to just cover the kernels. Stir gently until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding small amounts of broth and stirring until the rice softens yet is still firm to the bite (al dente), about 20 minutes.
Note: The slow addition of liquid and the frequent stirring are vital to releasing the starch and producing a creamy product.
4 Remove the rice from the heat. Stir in grated cheese, minced parsley, pine nuts, and salt. Serve immediately.
Note: If the rice is left to sit it will continue absorbing fluid and become sticky instead of creamy. You can save this by stirring in a few tablespoons of warm broth right before serving. If it is left to sit too long (15 minutes or more), the rice will lose its firm texture and become undesirably mushy.