The Power of Risotto: Easy as 4 to 1

Risotto is one of those rich side or main course dishes found usually at special occasion Italian restaurants, but likely not on your menu at home. Am I right?  Before working in fine restaurants and graduating from culinary school, I made the incorrect assumption risotto was simply unattainable for the novice, only for the expert chefs or Italian grandmothers.  In case you notice the ready-made “instant” packages of risotto at the grocery story, don’t even give it a second thought.  The difference in taste is utterly remarkable.  You will never turn back after taking one bite of well-executed risotto from scratch.

What I like about this recipe is that it fits both personality types – those that love having everything mapped out ahead, and those that love last-minute  inspiration. The recipe for risotto actually reads more like a ratio. Follow the instructions and then see what flavors can be thoughtfully added for a new spin. Consider seasonal vegetables, seafood, fresh herbs, cheeses, cured meat accents, or whatever your mind can conceive. All in moderation though; a heavy hand of flavor doesn’t always work. The main thing is to have fun, explore your refrigerator and throw in what looks fresh and pairs well together.

Risotto is like a story….learning the basics of how to make it is like learning how to identify and share the story God is writing in our lives. Watch the power of His authentic flavors slowly stirring in us and then encourage others around us. And in that process, we listen and taste how God is writing His story in the people around us. I suggested to my dear friend Ginna that she consider sharing her story about her daughter Grace. She wrote it and now it’s in the collection, titled “God, Why Won’t You Heal?”. I know myself as well as many others are inspired by her vulnerability. God’s Word in us makes us not want to turn back to ourselves, but to turn into community, that we might taste more of Him together.

“Hear my words, you wise men;
    listen to me, you men of learning.
For the ear tests words
    as the tongue tastes food.
Let us discern for ourselves what is right;
    let us learn together what is good.

– Job 34:2-4


Basic Risotto Ratio:  4 to 1 (That’s 4 cups of stock or broth to 1 cup of arborio rice)

8 cups low-sodium chicken broth (other broths or stocks can be substituted)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 small or medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (optional)

2 cups arborio rice

1 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino or Parmesan (about 3 ounces) plus more for shaving over top

Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, cleaned with stems removed and chopped (optional)


1.  Place the broth in a medium saucepan over low heat and keep it at a very low simmer.
2.  In a large wide pot or Dutch oven, heat the measured oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and a large pinch each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
3.  Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the kernels start to crackle, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and let simmer, stirring often, until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 2 to 4 minutes.
4.  Pour a ladle of the simmering broth over the rice. Let simmer, stirring constantly, until the rice absorbs the liquid. Continue adding broth, stirring and letting it absorb, until the rice is al dente, about 20 to-25 minutes (you may not use up all of the broth). Taste as you go for doneness.
5.  When the rice is done, remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan.  Taste and season with more salt, pepper, and Parmesan as needed.  Just before serving, loosen the risotto to the desired consistency with a little more broth or hot water and serve immediately. Drizzle each serving with extra virgin olive oil, a few shavings (using a vegetable peeler) from a block of parmesan or pecorino cheese and a sprinkling of parsley if desired.
Serves 6-8

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