What I know about making risotto I have learnt from Locatelli’s book Made in Italy. He tells in minute detail the processes as well as explaining why things are happening, the history of the kitchen decisions, in a way that somehow makes you ‘feel’ the cooking process too. Locatelli says that if you achieved the prefect risotto consistency tilt the bowl and it should ripple like the waves of the sea. All this amazing detail and explanation though, should be read and then forgotten, because to make a risotto is about instinct and practice. It should be done with a light heart.
People get a bit funny about risotto, they say it takes too long, that you have to stir it, as if you’re chained to the stove for days and days. To make a risotto takes less than half an hour and to stir it is a zen occupation that can be achieved with friends sitting at the kitchen table to amuse; everyone with a glass of wine in hand.
We have here a basic recipe for a classic risotto. You could add some porcini half way, or some threads of saffron, or roast garlic and pumpkin to stir through near the end of the cooking process. Make something delicious with the contents of the fridge crisper drawer. I made the roast pumpkin version last week on one of the strangely cool nights and instead of sitting outside under the wisteria we warmed the kitchen and ate creamy rice by the stove.
Adapted from Giorgio Locatelli, Made in Italy, Food and Stories
2.5 litres good chicken stock
50g butter (or a slurp of olive oil)
1 onion, chopped very finely
1 clove garlic, chopped very finely
1 lemon, zested and juiced
400g superfino carnaroli rice (or Arborio)
125ml dry white wine (or as my friend Emilio says a glass for the dish and a glass for you.)
salt and pepper
for the mantecatura
about 75g cold butter, cut into small dice
about 100g finely grated Grana Padano (or Parmesan)
Have the stock barely simmering on the stove beside your risotto pan. (The choice of a heavy based pan is important for the even distribution of the heat.) For the soffritto, fry the onions in the butter or olive oil very slowly so that it becomes soft and transparent. Add garlic to this. Turn up the heat a little and stir and toast the rice in the pan until the grains are all covered in butter and onion. The rice should make a kind of crackly sound here. Add the wine. The pan should make a steamy sigh here. Stir and reduce until the wine has all but disappeared. From here add the stock in increments, stirring all the time (this will take about 18-20 minutes). And add the lemon juice and zest. The rice will take more liquid at the beginning of the cooking time, so take this into account reducing towards the end. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, so that the rice is just covered but not drowning. Let each ladleful almost be absorbed before adding the next. The grains should get plump and shiny. Test the rice at about 15 minutes in. The rice is ready when it is plump and tender, but the centre of the grain still has a slight firmness to the bite. Take the pan off the heat and let the risotto rest for a minute without stirring. Add the butter and cheese and whisk it in. Get your body behind it, you should hear a ‘thunck, thunck’ as you work the ingredients in the pan. The result should be a risotto that is creamy and rich. Taste and season. Serve the risotto straight away.