Risotto, the very name epitomizes Italian cuisine.

Chef Dave has cooked literally hundreds of risottos, and now he's going to pass everything he's learned along to you.

If you've ever tried an Italian arborio rice recipe, you know that the process can't be rushed, if you want maximum results. Making this type of dish takes about half an hour after the cooking starts, because it needs to be cooked over low heat. Dave prefers to use a cast iron skillet for this process. Risotto is a Northern Italian dish, and is traditionally prepared in a heavy bottomed skillet, and cast iron fits the bill better than any other. It transfers heat to the food extremely well.

To make this type of dish, you must use a certain type of rice. Italian Arborio (a fat, starchy, medium grain rice) is by far the most common because it is available in most grocery stores. Other types of rice that work well are Roma, Vialone, Carnaroli, Nano and Maratelli.

A perfect Arborio dish is rich and creamy, so these starchy brands of rice are essential to the texture. If you use regular short or long grain generic rice, for example, you will likely wind up with sticky sushi rice.

Since the amount of cooking stock needed varies, Dave's suggestion to you is to have plenty at hand when your preparation is taking place. 5-8 cups is about the norm.

Why do stock amounts vary so? Because, for some types of risotto dishes you add wine in the early stages, others you add porcini mushroom broth (a byproduct of reconstituting dried porcinis). Dried is about the only way most of us can get porcinis. You can buy fresh ones but the cost is around $35 a pound). Porcinis grow under chestnut trees in Italy, and the stock from reconstituting the dried ones is earthy and deeply flavorful, "killer good", in fact.

So, have 8 cups of stock on hand to start. Homemadechicken, shrimp or beef stock, whichever goes best with your dish of the day, will produce far superior results to packaged. Homemade stock is well worth the trouble, but if you have to use processed, you are still going to have a really good result!

 Here are the general cooking instructions for preparing a simple, vegetable Italian rice dish:

The formal version of this recipe, with the full ingredients list, is here: Fennel And Onion

Heat 6 cups of chicken stock to just simmering. (have at least 2 more cups handy just in case) Add some chopped herbs such as Italian parsley, thyme or basil to the stock.

Coarsely chop one medium fennel bulb, one medium onion, 4 garlic cloves and 1 cup of pecorino Romano cheese (ewe's milk Romano), and have handy 1 cup of cooked green peas. Reserve for correct time to add.

Heat 2 T of olive oil or butter in a well-seasoned, cast iron skillet (or the heaviest, non-stick skillet you have.)

Add about 3-4 T of chopped shallots or onions to the oil and sauté for 2-3 minutes over medium heat.

Add your Arborio rice. For this example, we'll use 1 cup. This is enough to feed four to six as either a first course (the Italian tradition), or as a main course.

Stir the rice well with the onions and oil, because the purpose is to thoroughly "coat" the rice. This helps regulate absorption of the liquid.

Add 1/4 cup of dry flavorful white wine. Your choice. We've even used "Meade" which is quite a flavorful addition.

Add your vegetables, except for the peas.

When the wine is about 3/4's absorbed, reduce the heat to the lowest setting if you are cooking in an iron skillet, (low medium if in anything else), and ladle in enough stock to cover the smoothed out risotto.

When the added liquid level drops about 1/3, re-cover with more stock.

Continue this process for about 20 minutes.

When the stock absorption rate slows down considerably, add the cooked peas.

The end of the cooking is critical for the final texture of the dish, so when the rice is mostly tender, but with just a hint of texture to it, and the liquid you have added to this point is mostly absorbed, add the Romano and 2 T of butter.

At this point, stir the risotto profusely to blend in the cheese and butter and remove your finished product from the heat.

Let it stand for 3 or 4 minutes and then serve in pasta bowls, garnished with some freshly chopped Italian parsley.

An oaky Italian chardonnay goes well with this dish.

All right, you are a seasoned risotto chef now. Bada bing, bada boom!

Now that you are a "skilled" preparer, make some of the others you will find links to at the bottom of this page. We will be adding more risotto recipes as time goes on.

Buon appetito always!
Chef Dave