1/4 onion, chopped or finely sliced
Butter and/or oil
70-100g (1/3-1/2 cup) rice for risotto
Broth (preferably homemade)
- Make a soffritto: Gently sauté the chopped or finely sliced onion in butter and/or or oil. (You can add a pinch of salt and a drop of water to soften the onions as they cook to make sure they don't burn.)
- Toast the rice: Then add the rice--a bit more than a handful, or 70-100g (1/3-1/2 cup) per person, depending on how hungry you are--and let it 'toast' in the soffrito for a few minutes-- just until the grains turn a chalky white color.
- Add wine: Then add a splash of wine--almost always white, but red is possible in a few instances and, for a very special risotto, you can use champagne—and let it evaporate.
- Add broth ladle by ladle: Then add broth, ladle by ladle, allowing each ladleful of broth to evaporate before adding the next ladleful, stirring often. (There are some cooks who say it's only necessary to stir when adding the broth.) Repeat until the rice is 'al dente', which should take around 20 minutes.
- 'La mantecatura': When the rice is cooked, you take the risotto off heat and, for most risotti, add a generous amount of grated parmesan cheese and, if you like, a bit of butter, mixing vigorously to create a creamy consistency. (This last step is called la mantecatura—which I might loosely translate as enrichment, the idea being that by adding cheese and butter and agitating the rice kernels and releasing their starch, you give the risotto a rich, creamy texture.)
- Optional Rest: You should normally serve your risotto immediately. But for a slightly firmer risotto, you can cover and let it sit for a minute or two. If conversely the risotto is too stiff for your taste, stir in a bit of hot water, broth or cream to loosen it up.
There are three kinds of rice that are suitable for making risotto: Arborio, Carnaroli and Vialone Nano. Of these, Arborio is by far the easiest to find in supermarkets outside Italy, but the other two actually make superior risotto and are worth seeking out.
If you can't find any of these, use a short or medium grained rice. If all else fails, parboiled rice can be used to make a passable, if not very authentic, dish.