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When in Need of a ‘Sure Thing’ make this Risotto Recipe…

A Dish that Pays Dividends

Whether it’s getting that client to say ‘yes’, apologizing to your partner for doing something stupid, or wanting to have that special romantic evening – you will want to make this risotto recipe.  It’s a sure thing to getting what you are after.  I’ve made this dish so many times and have never been disappointed in the result or with the results I get.  People downright love it and can’t get enough.  Picky kids will even eat it.  People that say they’ve had risotto before and never liked it.  I don’t care who they are – they will be putty in your hands if you make this dish the right way.  Provided you have the right risotto recipe, ingredients, and a bit of patience.

Let’s face it – we’ve all had bad risotto in restaurants.  That parboiled rice that’s been thrown into a pan and made to resemble some risotto-like concoction on your plate.  Loose, runny, pasty – sounds like a morning after a bender.  Been there, done that.  In part, it’s why I almost never order it in a restaurant that I don’t know or trust the food at.  The bad by far outweigh the good.  And plus, I know how to make it better than most of them.

Making risotto is a labor of love.  It takes a great deal of patience and attention.  You can’t throw it in a pot, cover it for 20 minutes and come back to a perfectly cooked risotto.  It’s a nuanced dish that needs to be stroked like a scared little kitten.  You need to constantly add, stir, add, observe, smell, and add more.  But it will reward you.  It takes practice.  Your first batch may look like oatmeal – bad.  But if you keep trying you will begin to see the point at which the rice is cooked to a perfectly al dente texture and is ready to be served.


Good mushrooms are key in this risotto recipe

What Kind of Rice to Use?

Risotto is a northern Italian dish with its roots in Milan.  The Italians were influenced by the Spanish as they were occupied for nearly two centuries by them during the Middle Ages.  Slow cooking methods were applied to rice which accompanied dishes like Ossobucco.  Paella has a similar composition in Spain as well.

There are actually 5 common types of rice used to make risotto and they are prized for their amylopectin content which allows them to become creamy where other types of rice such as basmati will not.  They all vary in size and starch content and they all bring different variables into how the risotto is cooked.  They are:

  • Arborio – widely available and most commonly used, bigger than carnaroli or vialone nano grains and not as starchy.
  • Carnaroli – the undisputed king of all rices for making risotto.  Produces a creamy risotto and less apt to be overcooked.
  • Calriso – California/N. Italian hybrid rice which is absorbent and creamy (though I don’t know why you wouldn’t use the others listed here if you could).
  • Baldo – quick cooking and similar in starch content and creaminess to arborio
  • Vialone Nano – preferred in the Veneto region vs. carnaroli which is used throughout Italy.  Very creamy and can absorb 2x it’s weight in liquid.

I typically use Carnaroli when making this risotto recipe.  It’s creamy, absorbent and is a bit more forgiving than the others.

Mushroom Risotto - Photo by Jason Price, Seattle

Mushroom Risotto – yes please


Recipe Ingredients

This is a mushroom risotto recipe.  If you aren’t a fan of mushrooms, substitute chicken stock and leave them out.  For the best mushrooms in Seattle, I recommend visiting Foraged and Found Edibles at your local farmers market.  You can also use good shellfish stock to make this dish by subtracting the mushroom components and serving with grilled or pan seared scallops, shrimp, crab or lobster.

Serves 4-6

  • 1 1/4 c. of Carnaroli
  • 1 qt. mushroom stock
  • 1 large shallot – minced
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/4 lb freshly grated parmesan
  • 5-10 basil leaves – julienned
  • Aged balsamic vinegar


Recipe Instructions

  1. Soak dried mushrooms in lukewarm water in separate bowl 30 minutes in advance of cooking the risotto
  2. In a 4 quart pan, melt 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil together over medium heat
  3. Add shallot and white pepper and saute for 1 minute
  4. Add rice (the heat will help the rice open up before adding the stock) and saute for 1-2 more minutes
  5. Lower the temp to Med/Low and add 1/2 c of stock while stirring
  6. Stir then let rest and repeat until liquid is mostly absorbed.  As the rice cooks and absorbs the stock, add more a 1/2 cup at a time repeating the process above.
  7.  Drain the mushrooms through a fine sieve while reserving the liquid for use in the risotto
  8. Slice mushrooms and saute in separate pan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes with 1 tbsp of butter – then reserve
  9. Continue to stir the risotto, adding stock or mushroom liquid as needed
  10. Start to taste the risotto after about 15-20 minutes to test texture.  If it’s still too al dente then continue to add stock a little at a time and stir until texture is firm and creamy but not mushy.
  11. Add salt and 1/4-1/2 cup of parmesan to risotto and stir in
  12. Add sauteed mushrooms to risotto and stir in
  13. Remove from heat and serve in small bowls.  Top each bowl with grated parmesan, a few basil leaves and drizzle a bit of aged balsamic.

I like to serve this dish with a nice Barbera or Barbaresco.  If you can’t find these wines you can always go with a lovely Oregon or California Pinot Noir from cooler climates.  In addition, you can pair this risotto recipe with something off the grill or some lovely lamb chops or sliced steak as well.  Indulge!

If you enjoyed this recipe then read more about food, farming and eating locally in Seattle by Jason Price at!