Risotto is one of the most common ways the Italians cook rice, and I’ve found it to be one of the most delicious! When you combine it with common American-Italian flavors, risotto quickly becomes a staple in your household as it has in mine. Mushrooms, onions and tomatoes shine through in this creamy risotto that is sure to become a new favorite of yours.
Risotto is something you may see at a finer dining establishment, and for good reason. It does well cooked to order, basically eaten immediately. While it may be something you see on menus from time to time, it’s a fun, quick and delicious way to serve up rice during the week. Risottos typically are rice dishes that have an al dente “bite” to it with a creamy luxurious sauce. When a risotto is made, the liquid component is added slowly and absorbed fully before more is added. The end is usually finished with a small amount of butter and cheese adding that creamy element without too much heaviness.
Arborio rice is what is typically called for in risotto due to its high starch content and short grained qualities. Because of its specific molecular makeup, Arborio is able to absorb liquid, release its starch and become slightly sticky once cooked. There are many other versions Italians and chefs will use, but this variety is found in almost every supermarket.
In creating this recipe I found inspiration through a brand name risotto mix called, Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomato Risotto. Cooked as per the package’s instructions it was rather dull. In countless variations since then I’ve been able to doctor it up and create a unique and elegant spin on it. Since I can no longer find this exact risotto mix, and since many of you cannot locate it specifically without special ordering, I’ve made sure to share with you my version of their mix. Simply stated their mix calls for Arborio rice with dried tomatoes, oregano and garlic. Since those flavors are commonly found on pizza, the addition of my favorite toppings was an essential next step.
While I use onions and mushrooms in my basic recipe, here are some other variations you should try. Keep in mind that if you want more depth to this recipe, you should add some of these ingredients towards the beginning of your recipe to help layer out your broth. All meats should be cooked in this beginning stage, or added in the end fully cooked. Some ingredients may not stand up to longer cooking times, but it’s still great to play around with the basic recipe and find out which one will become your favorite. Here are some suggestions:
- Mediterranean- olives, artichokes
- American- pepperoni chunks, green peppers, mushrooms
- Meat Lovers- Italian sausage, pepperoni chunks, hamburger
- Veggie Lovers- spinach, olives, mushrooms
Once your vegetables are cooked, the Arborio rice is gently cooked in the pan until the fat in the pan coats each individual grain of rice. It will also becomes translucent just on the edges of the rice letting your know it’s time to proceed.
The stock (liquid) added to my recipe is chicken stock. I just like the flavor, but of course if you’re eat a diet rich in vegetables, then add vegetable stock. Or if you try your hand at the meat lovers version, go for beef stock. The hot stock is added in small increments, while constant stirring helps to gently release the starch giving your sauce a thickness of its own making. The broth recommendation I list below is just that, a recommendation. Each batch you make will vary slightly so it’s important to test the rice as you go along checking for doneness.
Once the rice is cooked to al dente (firm not hard), I usually finish with a small amount of butter and parmesan. While some of my vegan friends may not choose to have dairy in their diets, they can always work with their substitutes such as Earth Balance with a touch of nutritional yeast. The finished risotto should spread easily on a flat plate but without the sauce dribbling past the rice. My absolute recommendation for a finished touch before serving is truffle infused olive oil. It adds a rich earthiness to the dish and elevates it. If you’re not big on fungi, then try an infused olive oil such as sun dried tomato or garlic.
To full plates and eating your tarte out,
6 cups of Chicken Broth
3 tablespoons of Olive Oil
1/2 cup (or 8) Portobello Mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
1 small Onion, chopped
2 cups of Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomato Risotto, or *see note below*
1 tablespoon of Butter, cold
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of Truffle infused Olive Oil
In a saucepan heat Chicken Broth, leave on burner till ready to use in the steps below.
Heat two tablespoons of Olive Oil in another saucepan. Place Portobello mushrooms into oil and cook for one minute. Add Garlic and Onions, cook for 4-5 minutes or until Onions are translucent.
Using the Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomato Risotto, or your substitute*, add to Onion mixture and stir to coat with Oil. Continue stirring the rice until the edges have turned translucent but the center is still opaque. You should also be able to smell the aroma of toasted rice.
Using a ladle, incrementally start adding one ladle at a time of Chicken Broth to your rice. Wait to add another ladle until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed by the rice. This gradual addition of liquid will allow the rice to release its starch and create its own delicious sauce. Use just enough broth to cook the rice and no more. Begin tasting the rice after about 12 minutes to gauge how far it has cooked, and remove from burner once rice is al dente (firm not hard).
Stir in your cold Butter until completely melted. Season with Salt and Pepper. Garnish with Parmesan, and drizzle with Truffle Olive Oil. Serve immediately.
*Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomato Risotto substitute, 2 cups of Arborio rice, 1/2 cup of sun dried tomatoes (chopped), 1 tablespoon of oregano, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic.