Risotto is an Italian specialty almost as versatile as pasta. It was born centuries ago in Milan and there are countless version of it but, no matter if you are cooking a simple mushroom risotto or an ambitious five cheese and nuts, some principles stay the same.
Just as I did with 5 Tips to cook pasta, I'll share with you 3 secretes to prepare risotto I learned from my grandma. You'll see that, in the end, it's not difficult to master this delicious recipe, it takes only a couple of tricks... and some elbow grease.
1. Grate the onions
Risotto always begins with onion soffritto.
Usually, you would cut the onions and put them in the pan with a bit of oil or butter (or both, grandma does both) until they become transparent. This is a good method, but if you don't cut them fine enough, you risk the onions to burn while remaining raw in the center. And that's always a bummer.
But what if you grated them? The result is a creamy paste, easy to cook with just a bit of oil or butter and much lighter to digest! If the paste dries while it cooks, you can always add a bit of hot water or white wine.
2. Stock is your best friend
I know of people using water to cook risotto, but nothing gives this recipe the same texture and flavour as stock does.
It's easy enough to come by. You can either buy ready stock from the supermarket and mix it with hot water, or you can prepare your own. I actually like very much to use home-made stock. For the most basic one, you just need a carrot, an onion and a piece of celery, you put them together in a pot full of water and just let them boil for half an hour or so, depending how much flavour you want.
Home-made stock can be different for any kind of risotto. For example, if I'm cooking mushroom risotto I add some juniper berries, rosemary and dried mushrooms if I can find them. For sausage risotto, I will try to find some bones at the supermarket, because the marrow adds flavour and consistency. Finally, for seafood risotto I would put in the stock the parts of the fish you usually discard, like shrimp's heads.
I know some of these ingredients may sound... weird. But trust me, it works!
3. Stirring makes the difference
When you stir the rice as it cooks, you are helping it release starch which - guess what? - it's one of the responsible for that creamy texture the best risotto has. So, ideally, you never want to stop stirring through all the 15-20 minutes of cooking. Preferably, in the same clockwise direction. Which means, you know. Biceps.