I frequently order risotto in restaurants, but in the past few months I've started making it at home and it has become my new favorite dish. Yes, it does involve a lot of stirring, but it's so worth it. Once you've mastered the basic recipe you can add anything else that floats your boat.
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups broth (chicken or veggie)
1/2 cup wine (usually white)
3/4 cup finely chopped onion or shallot
3-4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Reggiano
zest from one lemon (optional, but recommended)
salt and pepper
1. Bring broth to a simmer in a saucepan and keep it simmering for the whole process
2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a separate saucepan
3. Add the onions or shallots to the butter and saute for 3-4 minutes
4. Add the rice to the butter and stir it to coat
5. Add the wine to the rice, stir and cook until most of the wine has evaporated, about 4 minutes
6. Add a ladle of broth to your rice mixture and stir until the liquid has been absorbed, about 3 minutes
7. Continue adding ladles of broth in this fashion, stirring as you go. Wait for the liquid to be absorbed each time before adding more. Stir a lot, but feel free to walk away a few times - make a salad, pour yourself a glass of wine, change the music, write your Congressman, whatever.
8. When you've used up all your broth (this should take about 30 minutes), taste the risotto. It should be firm, but not crunchy. If it's not done, add additional heated broth (if you have it) or hot water from the sink, ladle by ladle until the rice is done
9. When it's cooked to your liking, stir in another tablespoon or two of butter, lemon zest (optional), salt and pepper to taste and grated parmesan.
10. Serve topped with a little more parmesan.
I often serve this basic risotto as a side dish with scallops, pork or whatever protein you like.
What I love about risotto is its versatility. Add anything you like. Vegetables like mushroom and asparagas should be cooked separately and tossed in during the final minutes. Frozen peas can thaw in warm water while you cook and then tossed in about 5 minutes before the risotto is done. Prosciutto can be julienned and thrown in during the last minute or two. And on and on...
I've even tried red wine risotto with peas, chorizo and manchego cheese instead of Parmesan. It was quite tasty, but the vibrant purple color does fade to a kind of unappetizing brown.