Four ways to cook the perfect risotto

Risotto rice

Risotto rice - Credit: Kerstin Rodgers

Risotto rice is short and round with a nutty core.

Deriving from the same cultivar as Japonica rice, it has a white 'pearl' in each grain which resists over-cooking, while the outside of the grain provides the melting creaminess of a slow-cooked risotto.

A couple of years ago I visited the heart of risotto country; the villages of Vercelli and Novara and the rice farm Principato de Lucedio in Piedmont and Lombardy. The largest rice growing region in Europe, this Northern Italian area is sometimes known as 'Little China'. Here the locals eat risotto rather than pasta - 12 to 18 kilos a head per annum compared to one or two kilos in the rest of Italy. 

The basic breeds are Baldo, Carnaroli, Vialone Nano. For several years we were told that Arborio was the risotto rice, but in Piedmont, they use it in soups. As well as different cultivars, you can get black rice, red husk rice, wholewheat rice and Gigante from Vercelli which produced the creamiest risotto of all of my testing.

A risotto takes on average 30 to 45 minutes of constant stirring to prevent it catching at the bottom of the pan, and allow for each addition of liquid to be absorbed. So put on a podcast, place a fan nearby, and settle in for the duration. 


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All recipes serve four.

Artichoke risotto

Artichoke risotto - Credit: Kerstin Rodgers

Risotto with Garlic scapes, Mexican tarragon and Artichokes 

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Garlic scapes (the tender stem and bud of the garlic plant), small artichokes and Mexican tarragon (reputedly stronger than French) are currently available at West Hampstead farmer's market, but use whatever is in season; ordinary garlic, jarred artichoke hearts, spring onions, baby leeks or asparagus.

3 tbsp olive oil
Handful garlic scapes, chopped.
320 g risotto rice
Glass Noilly Prat or white wine
1.2 litres vegetable stock
4 small artichoke hearts, sliced in half
Bunch Mexican tarragon, chopped
Generous knob of butter

Method

In a deep frying pan heat the olive oil and add chopped garlic scapes (once cooked reserve some to garnish the dish)
Add the rice and fry for a few minutes
Add the Noilly Prat or white wine then gradually add the hot vegetable stock. Wait until each bit is absorbed, stirring all the time. I add the halved artichoke hearts at this point to steam them. Once they are cooked, remove them to garnish. If using jarred artichoke hearts, add at the end.
Add the chopped tarragon and towards the end a generous knob of butter, this gives the risotto a wonderful glossy feel.

Black risotto with Courgettes, Goats Cheese, Herbs and Edible Flowers

black risotto rice

Black risotto rice - Credit: Kerstin Rodgers

Tip: Soak the rice overnight before cooking.

3 tbsp olive oil
2 courgettes, sliced finely
320 g black risotto rice
Glass white wine
1.2 litres of hot vegetable stock
Bunch of fresh herbs
Knob of butter
150 g soft goats cheese, sliced
5 edible flowers such as wild fennel to decorate
Ground black pepper

Method:

Heat up the olive oil and fry the courgettes
Add the risotto rice, then the white wine
Gradually add the hot stock until each spoonful is absorbed. Keep stirring. Add a herb of your choice such as parsley, coriander, thyme, marjoram, tarragon, basil. Stir in a big knob of butter
Decorate with sliced goats cheese, edible flowers and black pepper.

Smoked Tomato Risotto

Tomato Risotto

Tomato risotto - Credit: Kerstin Rodgers

I buy smoked tomatoes from the Tomato Stall at Farmers Markets throughout North London.

For the passata sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, sliced
500 g passata
1 tbsp sea salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
bunch basil, fresh, leaves picked off

For the risotto
3 tbsp olive oil
320 g risotto rice
Glass wine, red or white
1 litre tomato/veg stock
Knob butter
Tub smoked tomatoes

Method:

Make the tomato passata sauce by frying the onions on a low heat, adding the passata, salt, garlic and basil. Simmer for half an hour or so. For the risotto, heat the olive oil and add the rice
Add the wine then the passata. Add the stock gradually. Keep stirring for 30 to 40 minutes.
Add the butter, take off the heat and dot the top with the smoked tomatoes and some fresh basil.

Saffron Risotto

saffron risotto

Saffron risotto - Credit: Kerstin Rodgers

3 tbsp olive oil
320 g white risotto rice (I used Baldo)
12 strands saffron, ground with a pinch of sea salt in a pestle and mortar
glass white wine
1.2 litres vegetable stock
Knob butter
100 g parmesan 
freshly ground pepper

Method:

In a deep pan heat up the olive oil and add the risotto rice, stirring briefly.
Add the saffron and white wine. Slowly add the vegetable stock over the course of approximately half an hour, stirring.
Stir in a knob of butter. Remove from the stove and add freshy grated parmesan and ground pepper.

From the kitchen of Ms MarmiteLover https://msmarmitelover.com/

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