Remember that post where I talked about Italian secondi the unsung heroes of Italian cuisine that are a tad overshadowed by the ever-popular pasta and pizza? Well, I’d like to add another dish to that category: risotto!
While the Spanish have paella, the Chinese have fried rice and the Mexicans arroz con leche, risotto is rice done the Italian way. It is arborio or carnaroli rice that is slowly cooked with white wine and broth and finished off with a healthy dose of parmesan cheese. If you’re not Italian, I’d guess that you’ve probably had risotto a few times in restaurants, but actually never made it at home.
“All that stirring!” a friend of mine said when she learned I was publishing this recipe next. “It’s too complicated!” This is, to a certain extent, true.
Risotto is a needy dish, the equivalent of a fussy toddler who requires coddling and a bit of extra attention. It calls for a cooking time of at least 30 minutes, during which broth is slowly added to the rice and stirred until completely absorbed. This process is certainly more complex compared to the quick boil time of pasta. But the slow stirring process is what releases the starch in the rice and gives the dish its signature richness, making the end result well worth the bit of extra effort.
Besides being a nice change of pace from pasta, risotto is also comfort food that is still fancy enough for company, and it is extremely versatile. Once you have the basic recipe down you can add any other ingredients you want.
The recipe I’m sharing with you in this post is for risotto with peas and pancetta, which I thought was a Spring-ier version of this dish and maybe a good option for a primo when the weather still isn’t too hot. However, risotto with pumpkin, saffron (otherwise known as risotto Milanese), mushrooms, shrimp, or lobster (if you wanted do something really special) would be delicious, too. Use your imagination! Happy eating!
- 6–8 cups chicken broth
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 4 ounces pancetta, finally chopped
- 1 1/2 cups carnaroli or arborio rice
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup peas (frozen is fine)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan, plus more for serving
Put the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and bring it to a simmer over low heat.
Next, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook until they are softened and translucent. Add the pancetta and sauté until crisp. Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes in the pan. Add the white wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often (this will only take 2–3 minutes).
Begin to add the broth to the rice: add 1 cup of hot broth and simmer over medium-low heat
until it is absorbed (about 5 minutes) stirring often. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by the cup and stirring often. This will take about 30–40 minutes. Mix in the peas and stir until they are heated throughout. Then add the parmesan, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately* with extra parmesan cheese on the side. This recipe makes enough for 4-6 people. Enjoy!
*Note that risotto is a dish best eaten right away. It does not take well to reheating and isn’t nearly as good cold (I warned you it was fussy!). Leftover risotto, if there is any, is great for making supplì though!