While my mom loves risotto, it was never a food she ever made at home for dinner.
I never even attempted to make risotto in my kitchen until I was abroad last semester. One of my friend’s in Umbra’s Food Studies program had done it before and promised all of us that it was much easier than we thought. We settled on making a red wine and mushroom risotto. After watching her make it and helping out a bit, I agreed with her. It did seem a lot easier to make than I had anticipated.
While I made risotto a few more times while abroad, I still didn’t feel totally confident in my risotto-making skills enough to not follow a recipe. So, it was a natural choice for me to look for guidance from my ultimate culinary inspiration, Giada De Laurentiis. While she has many risotto recipes (not surprising), I settled on her Red Wine Risotto with Peas recipe because I had never eaten risotto with peas before.
The recipe (and most risotto recipes, I’ve found) really don’t require that many ingredients. For this one, I started with arborio rice, chicken stock, olive oil, butter, a dry red wine, parmesan cheese, onion, garlic, peas, and parsley. I had most of these ingredients in my kitchen and only had to buy the arborio rice and fresh parsley.
Even then, I think most risotto recipes are very adaptable. The two constants (or, things I’ve never not used while making risotto) are arborio rice and chicken/beef/vegetable stock. Arborio rice is a really starchy, white rice that makes it much easier to get that creamy texture we all crave in risotto. While I have heard some people say you can substitute white rice for arborio, I have also heard that arborio typically yields the best results. I have always stuck to arborio, but I am curious to hear: have you ever tried making risotto with white rice? Did it turn out well?
However, I definitely wouldn’t recommend using any other types of rice (basmati, jasmine) to make risotto. Check out this infographic for some quick facts on different types of rice!
So, for the Red Wine Risotto with Peas, I started by bringing about 3 1/2-4 cups of chicken stock to a boil and then leaving it to simmer on the stovetop. While the chicken stock was beginning to boil, I chopped up half an onion and about 3 cloves of garlic and added it to a pan with a few tablespoons of butter (to brown everything really well) and a few more tablespoons of olive oil (to be more healthy). This is the same pan that you’ll be cooking the risotto in, so be sure it’s pretty big!
Once the onion and garlic cloves developed a translucent, but slightly browned color, I added one cup of arborio rice to the pan.
I sauteed the onion, garlic, and rice together for a few minutes. This step allows the rice to toast a bit in the pan, something Giada says gives them a “nutty flavor.” After a few minutes, I added about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of dry red wine to the pan and allowed the rice to absorb the wine’s flavor for about 1 minute.
From there, I took about 3/4 cup of the simmering chicken stock and added it to the pan.
It was at this point that my risotto sort of started to resemble ground beef and, for that, I am sorry (I probably added a little bit too much red wine.)
After the chicken stock is added, it is important to consistently stir the mixture. This constant attention is what allows the rice to cook and gives the risotto that super creamy texture. The mixture should be stirred about 6 minutes before another 3/4 cup of chicken stock is added and then another 6 minutes before another 3/4 cup of chicken stock is added.
While I stirred the risotto, I brought the chicken stock to a boil again. After the 12 minutes were up, I added the remaining 3/4 cup chicken stock to the mixture. However, this time, I left everything to simmer and stirred far less frequently. I used this time to chop a few tablespoons of fresh parsley, grate about 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, and transfer about a 1/3 cup of frozen peas into a bowl.
After the mixture simmered about 2 minutes, I added the remaining chicken stock (only a few tablespoons) and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. This part is what really allows the rice to cook.
At this point, you can really see how the risotto mixture has taken on a very creamy texture.
After everything had simmered down, I added the parsley, parmesan cheese, and frozen peas (the heat from the risotto warmed them immediately!) and plated it up!
This was my first-time doing risotto totally on my own and it actually wasn’t that hard! The most difficult part is remembering to continually stir the rice mixture with the chicken stock. But, it tasted delicious! I know I will be making this again!