This creamy Parmesan Risotto is perfect as a first course or side dish. Serve it along side a pan-seared steak, add scallops, or toss in mushrooms to make this a delicious meal.
I wish I had some glamorous story of eating risotto at a fancy Italian restaurant or on a romantic vacation to the Eternal City, but I don’t. When I think of risotto, I think of watching all of the chef’s fail miserably attempting to make it on Hell’s Kitchen and the Gordon Ramsay memes saying “if you can’t cook risotto or scallops, you’re about to have a really bad day.”
Don’t let that intimidate you too much. Risotto really isn’t difficult to make, but it is definitely more high maintenance than your favorite minute rice. It will require some extra time and your undivided attention.
While I was making this Parmesan Risotto recipe it made me think about a cooking class I attended in New Orleans not too long ago. The instructor was explaining how her grandmother lovingly taught her to make gumbo, and recalled her saying that she needed to be dedicated to the cause without any distractions. This meant no children running around in the kitchen, because when it comes down to it, “it’s the children or the roux.”
That’s how I felt while making this recipe- when they say constant stirring, they mean constant stirring- no walking away to answer the phone, wipe noses, refill juice cups, or save toddlers from falling down the stairs. It’s the children or the risotto.
What is risotto?
Risotto is a northern Italian rice dish cooked in a broth to a creamy consistency. The broth can be derived from meat, fish, or vegetables. Many types of risotto contain butter, wine, onion, and Parmesan cheese.
Basically, risotto is rice cooked in broth. You can make risotto using any kind of stock and toss in any kind of protein or veggies you like, but the key to making restaurant quality risotto at home is the type of rice.
What type of rice is used for risotto?
I’ve had people comment and ask if they can substitute in a different type of rice in this Parmesan Risotto recipe. There are very few substitutions when it comes to making proper risotto. The type of rice matters because of the different starch contents.
For example, a long-grain like basmati or jasmine wouldn’t work here because of their low starch content. Choosing a rice without enough starch will rob this dish of its classic creamy texture.
I use arborio rice in this recipe because it’s the most widely available. It is easy to cook with but be careful, because it can turn mushy when overcooked. Babysitting the arborio rice properly makes the risotto notoriously creamy.
How to Make Risotto | Tester Notes
Make sure to use warm stock when making this recipe. Adding cold stock to a hot pan will cool everything down and mess up the cooking process. Keep the stock at a simmer in a separate pan so everything stays hot and cooks evenly.
Don’t add the stock too quickly; you want to cook the rice slowly so that the stock is absorbed. If you dump in the stock all at once, you’re just boiling rice. Also, because the starch is crucial, don’t rinse the rice before cooking it.
You also want to be careful not to over-stir while this is cooking. Stirring the rice constantly will add air into the risotto, cooling it down and making it gluey. Alternatively, if you don’t stir it enough, the rice will stick to the bottom and burn.
It’s helpful to have everything prepped and ready to move before starting this dish. You will need two hands- one for stirring and one for ladling.
For the love, please use fresh Parmesan and not the stuff from a can. Parmesan is the star of this dish, so you want it to be of decent quality.
- 5 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil extra-virgin
- 1 cup onion diced
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice uncooked
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 4 oz Parmesan grated
- 1 tbsp parsley chopped
Bring stock to a simmer in a large saucepan. Keep warm over low heat, but do not boil.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to the pot; swirl to coat. (Everything from here on will be added to this pot.)
Add onion; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the Arborio rice and salt, cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.
Add 1/2 cup stock; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently.
Stir in 1 1/2 cups stock; cook 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.
Add remaining stock, 3/4 cup at a time, stirring nearly constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next (about 20-25 minutes); reserve 1/3 cup stock at last addition.
Remove pot from heat.
Stir in reserved remaining stock, butter, pepper, and cheese.
Top the risotto with parsley.
Be mindful of salt as the stock will likely already be salty enough. I felt the recipe needed an extra 1/4 tsp but use your own discretion. I also added a splash of cream at the very end just before serving, but this is optional.
As a general rule: 1 cup of dry Arborio rice yields 3 cups of cooked rice.
Originally Published April 4, 2016 | Updated September 5, 2018
Try this recipe with my favorite homemade chicken stock made in the Instant Pot.