How to Make Risotto

The secret to a great-tasting, smooth and creamy risotto is patience. While it may take a little more time and attention to make this Italian favorite, it is definitely worth the wait. And once you see how versatile and easy it really is, and discover the countless dishes that can be made with a risotto base, you won't mind it a bit.

Risotto is traditionally made with Arborio rice, which is usually grown in Italy. You could substitute another type of white rice, but you wouldn't get the same texture. The stubby, milky grains of Arborio have a high starch content, which gives the risotto its rich creaminess.

You can use risotto as a side dish or main dish, but it basically starts out with the same simple recipe (serves 4 to 6):

1 medium-sized yellow onion

4 tablespoons butter

5 cups of chicken broth, heated slightly (a little extra just in case)

2 cups Arborio rice

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan add butter and chopped onion and sauteacute; over medium heat until the onion turns soft and translucent. Add Arborio rice, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes, or until opaque. Do not brown or burn the rice.

Add 1 cup of warm broth to the pan, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan so it doesn't stick. Also scrape the sides to get all the uncooked rice mixed in. You want to see bubbles in the liquid to know it is absorbing, but if it is bubbling too much the rice may stick to the pan and burn. Turn down the heat slightly to simmer.

Once the broth is almost absorbed add in another cup. You need to pay attention and stir it often, but at this point you don't need to stir it constantly. Just keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn. Repeat these steps until all the broth is absorbed and the rice is creamy. It should take about 20-25 minutes.

Taste the rice to make sure it is done. It should be tender, but not mushy, almost like thick oatmeal. If it is still crunchy, add broth in 1/4 cup increments and cook until it reaches the desired doneness. If you run out of broth, use warm water.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

For a side dish, you can eat the risotto as is or stir in grated Parmesan cheese, sauteacute;ed mushrooms, or a favorite vegetable such as chopped zucchini or spinach.

For a main dish try:

Chicken and Broccoli Risotto

Add 1 or 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed, and 1 cup frozen broccoli florets along with the final cup of chicken broth. (May substitute cream of broccoli soup for the final cup of broth.) Allow broccoli and chicken to heat through. Salt and pepper to taste. Add grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto

Saute 1 chopped medium orange pepper and 1/2 chopped medium onion in butter for 3 minutes. Add rice and cook as indicated in basic recipe. Add 1 cup dry white wine and then continue to add 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth in 1 cup increments. Add 1/2 pound asparagus and 1/2 pound uncooked shrimp with the final cup of broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Add grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 3 minutes, careful not to overcook shrimp.