Risotto Rice

The types of rices used in making risotto have the ability to absorb liquids and to release starches which in turn make them stickier than long grain rice.  The varieties include Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Padano, Roma, and Vialone Nano.  Carnaroli and Vialone Nano are considered the best and are generally the most expensive.  With Carnaroli, there is a smaller chance that it will get overcooked whereas Vialone nano will absorb flavors better and since it is smaller, it will cook quicker.  Roma, Baldo, and Ribewill not be as creamy and are better for soups and stews; I personally have not seen these varieties in the stores.  The three varieties that are most common from cheapest to most expensive are Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano.  Arborio is what is most commonly sold and is great for a traditional risotto.  You will sometimes see the boxes labeled Superfino, Semifino, and Fino, these designations describe the size of the grain and not the quality of the rice.

Left: Vialone Nano; Right: Arborio



1/2ea    Large Yellow Onion

2oz       Butter

2.25#    Risotto Rice (Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano)

1/2C     White Wine

AN       Stock

AN       Your choice of additions such as cream, butter, cheese, vegetables, etc…

When making risotto, make sure that your stock is boiling and all of your ingredients are ready and in front of you before you start cooking.  Always use a rubber spatula or wood spoon, metal spoons will break up the rice as it cooks and make for a sloppy mess.  The act of stirring the risotto constantly as it cooks is very important because this process releases the starch molecules on the outside of the grain, which gives the dish its the creamy texture.  The rice should never be cooked past al dente, which means it should have some “bite” or firmness to it.

  • Place a large pot on the stove with your stock and boil.  The choice of stock is based upon your diet and flavors that you want to achieve.  Chicken stocks, and vegetable stocks are great and easy to find.

Herb Stock

  • In a large pot (rondos work the best) melt your butter, then sweat out the onions.  Cook the onions until they are transparent.

Sweating onions.

  • Next, add your rice and cook for a couple of minutes until the butter is absorbed and the rice is fragrant.

Toasting the risotto

  • By this time, your stock should be simmering, this is what you want.  De-glaze the pot with white wine and stir until the wine is absorbed.
  • Next, add enough stock to barely come to the top of the rice.  Once this begins to simmer, turn the heat down to keep it at a simmer.

Rice and the stock simmering

  •  As the stock is absorbed, continue to add more stock until the rice is about 80% cooked.  You never want to add more stock than needed, only add stock until it just barely covers the grains.

This is what the rice looks like when it has been cooked to about 80%. Creamy, yet the grains are still separated.

  • Once you are 80% cooked there are a lot of things you can do to it.  My favorite thing to do is to add about four more ounces of stock, finish the cooking, turn the heat off and add 2T of cold butter, and a small handful of Parmesan.
  • You can add the same amount of cream in place of the last portion of stock to add richness, as well as some fresh herbs.
  • At the Ranch, we add roasted sunchokes, faro, an aged sheep’s cheese and a lemon coulis which you can see here.