There are very few ways Italians eat rice other than in the form of a Risotto. What makes a risotto quite different from any other rice dish in the world is the way it combines the al dente rice with a starchy creaminess that enfolds it. Even the famous French food writer Escoffier, in one of the few mentions he made about Italian cooking, declared risotto to be a completely Italian affair that could not be compared to anything else he knew, something all Italians have always known.
Cooking a risotto is something that will not take a long time but for that short and brief moment you are in the kitchen you must treat it like a baby never taking your eye or hand away for a second. Perhaps more than other dishes you will need to make risotto a few times to get the feel and the way you build it. Yes in theory it is simple, but through 5 distinct cooking stages and quality ingredients you will achieve a rich creaminess and bite.
First is the stock, home made is best but at least make sure it is of quality, because the flavour of the stock is going to be absorbed by the rice. You begin with Soffritto, dicing and sautéing onions until soft and transparent in either butter or olive oil and even sometimes a mixture of both. Then you have Tosatura, the toasting of the rice (it is important to use a short grain rice with good starch qualities), coating every grain and warming the rice through to allow even cooking, also at this stage you stir through and evaporate a glass of wine before your stock. Next you slowly add your stock, slowly (a ladleful at a time), allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding the next. Then add you main ingredient, depending on what that maybe, how delicate or sturdy can vary in the moment you add this, but usually when the rice is 2/3rds cooked. Stirring your rice continuously but make sure not to break or damage the grains it is ready once the rice is al dente.
Rest the rice for a moment, then off the heat you stir through cold butter and cheese (grana or parmesan are best) known as Mantecatura, giving your risotto that silky, creamy finish. The beauty of a risotto is once you understand how it works, you can make it with anything you like, what ever is in season or you happen to have in the kitchen at home.
— 300g pumpkin diced in small cubes
— 2.5lt of chicken stock (or vegetable)
— 50g butter
— 1 onion, chopped very finely
— 400g Carnaroli rice
— 125ml dry white wine
— Nutmeg to taste
— Salt and pepper
FOR THE “MANTECATURA”:
— 75g cold butter, small chunks
— 100g finely grated parmesan or grana
- Bring the stock to the boil in a pot next to where you are going to make your risotto, then turn down the heat and keep it at a simmer.
- Melt the butter in a pan; add your onions and half the pumpkin and sauté until the onions are soft but not coloured.
- Add your rice and stir around to coat in the butter and toast the grains. Making sure all your rice is warm before adding your wine, cook until the wine evaporates completely. Start adding your stock, ladle at a time stirring and moving the rice as you do so, making sure the rice dose not stick but also gently so the rice does not break.
- After about 10 min add the rest of your pumpkin and continue adding stock, but make sure you only add enough so the rice does not become to wet and soupy. The risotto is ready when the rice is soft but al dente.
- Turn down you heat and allow the rice to rest for one minute then for the mantecatura, and using a wooden spoon, vigorously beat in the cold diced butter and cheese until your risotto is silky smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, a touch of nutmeg and serve.