People are always impressed when I cook risotto. Dave knows better: Delicious it is; a culinary achievement it is not. Not to say that I don’t appreciate artfully crafted restaurant risotto. Or that the inventor of the dish isn’t a genius. That person deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. But I digress.
Risotto is perhaps one of the easiest, no-brainer, no-measurement-needed, no-recipe-needed meals you can make. So much so that I hesitate to even give an actual recipe.
Here’s the thing: In my opinion, many of the things that go wrong with risotto come from using a recipe in the first place. Make risotto the way I do, and this dish it utterly foolproof:
Two pots. One with rice and cooked chopped onion. One with stock, kept hot over low heat. Add a few ladles of liquid at a time to the rice pot. Stir constantly. When the stock is absorbed into the rice, add more stock. Repeat until the rice is cooked to desired tenderness. Add butter, cheese, salt, pepper and any other ‘fixins to taste. That’s it.
If you’re a first-timer, use my recipe as a gauge. You’ll be cooking by muscle memory like an old Italian nonna in no time.
Pea and pancetta risotto
What you’ll need:
2 cups arborio rice
8-10 cups chicken stock
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 of a medium yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup shredded parmesan or asiago cheese (experiment with different types of cheeses—I added a small bit of soft italian sheep’s milk cheese in my last batch)
6 oz. diced pancetta
1/2 cup peas
salt and pepper to taste
Put stock in a pot on the stove. Heat on medium. Once the stock is hot, turn burner to low. Stock shouldn’t simmer or boil, it’s just on the stovetop to stay warm.
Meanwhile, cook pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until cooked and slightly browned. Set aside.
Cook chopped onion with olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. When onion is translucent and tender, add rice. Cook for a minute or so, constantly stirring, until rice is coated and beginning to turn translucent.
Add a few ladles full of broth to the rice pot and stir constantly. The constant stirring not only helps to keep the rice from sticking to the pan, but also releases the starches in the rice to create that divine, thick, creaminess that is the hallmark of the dish.
When the rice has absorbed the stock, add more. Repeat. After 15 minutes or so, taste the rice every so often to test for doneness. Continue to add stock and let it absorb until the rice is cooked to the desired tenderness. If you run out of stock, use warm water.
Risotto can be anywhere from slightly soupy to what I would describe as a mac ‘n’ cheese consistency. I prefer it somewhere in the middle. If the rice is cooked but you want a thinner consistency, add a little more stock right before you add the last few ingredients.
Stir in butter, cheese, cooked pancetta and peas. Add salt and pepper to taste.