Risotto is a dish that is intrinsically Italian. But unlike pasta or pizza, risotto is that one Italian dish that is either met with trepidation by people who cook and or is improperly done if the fear of cooking it is eventually overcome.
Risotto is rice dish that is made with a specific type of rice â€“ Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano. These rice grains have a lot of starch content and is able to absorb an amazing amount of liquid without breaking down or turning into mush. Cooking risotto is a very dedicated process. It requires constant attention. Although the claims by some that you need to constantly stir the rice may be a bit of an overkill, it does need constant management. Risotto needs to be stirred a lot so it wonâ€™t burn or dry up. Stock also needs to be introduced to the pan regularly. Put too much stock and it becomes soup, too little and it becomes steamed rice. The secret is to put a cup or so of stock while stirring it, and wait for the rice to absorb most of the stock before introducing a cup more. The whole process has to be done repeatedly until the rice becomes al dente â€“ the rice has a firm bite but is not crunchy.
The most common mistake when cooking risotto is allowing the rice to dry up. Iâ€™ve been to restaurants where the risotto comes out looking like Spanish Paella. Itâ€™s slightly dry and can mounds up the plate. Properly cooked risotto should have the consistency of lava, itâ€™s not soupy nor dry. Itâ€™s always a source of annoyed amusement when I get served risotto that doesnâ€™t even meet this basic characteristic of what the dish should be. If you are ever served risotto that doesnâ€™t have the consistency I described have it sent back. Itâ€™s an insult to the dish and youâ€™re being short-changed into eating a dish that is not what it really is.
Risotto is quite versatile, it can be both an appetizer or an entrÃ©e. There are so many variations in cooking risotto that youâ€™ll never really get tired eating it. Itâ€™s like pasta in the way that different ingredients will turn it into a completely different dish.
Risotto can also be considered a cooking method. Creative chefs have employed the same method when cooking different types of ingredients â€“ for example, barley, farro or even orzo pasta. Aspiring cooks shouldnâ€™t be intimidated by risotto. Start off with a small batch and once youâ€™ve got the technique youâ€™ll discover that risotto is an excellent foundation for more imaginative dishes.