One of my favorite Italian dishes is risotto. It’s so creamy, decadent, and delicious. I started experimenting with the basics of making risotto about 9 months ago.
When I first started making it, I was a little intimidated. To be honest, I had to work up my nerve to attempt it for quite a while as I had heard stories about how hard it is to make risotto. One day, I decided to just go for it. If nothing else, I have frozen pizza to serve the family. (Yep, I always have frozen pizza on hand …. though, currently I stock this amazing cauliflower crust pizza with veggies on top. Ummm, anyways, story for another time.)
I must have looked through a dozen recipes to see which didn’t intimidate me and seemed the easiest. In hindsight, they are all easy. You see, I think people get overwhelmed with the idea that you have to babysit this dish. You literally do. It’s not a quick and easy weeknight dinner but it is an amazing labor of love. From start to finish, I would say cooking this specific dish (we’re including the time to roast the squash), I spent about an hour in front of the stove. About 80% of that is stirring the risotto so it doesn’t stick, 10% was prep work and 10% was zoning out the kids while they screamed their latest rock concert with Frozen lyrics.
The secret to a perfect risotto, you have to stir the broth in one ladle at a time. Yep, a bit tedious, but this is definitely one of those times where patience brings very delectable rewards.
During my extensive research to find an “easy” recipe for risotto, I also looked into why I couldn’t just add the broth all at once. One reason that I found for adding the broth slowly is that by doing so, the rice releases the starch slowly and therefore, giving the dish its creamy texture. Adding the broth all at once, covering it and leaving it to cook can ruin your risotto in two different ways. One, the water will sit at the bottom from lack of stirring the risotto and can burn the dish from the bottom. Second, instead of giving the risotto its creamy texture, dumping the broth all at once can make break the rice and make it mushy rather than keeping the rice kernels whole but cooked and creamy.
I know this seems like a lot but really, it’s just reinforcing the fact that you need to add your broth slowly and you will have an amazing risotto.
The only other tip I want to add is to constantly check for salt. I used veggie bouillon combined with water for my broth in this recipe. You can use a low sodium broth also. The bouillons tend to have a higher sodium content so don’t add salt until you’ve tasted it. The parmesan cheese also brings a lot of salt content with it. The last thing you want to end up with a salty risotto you can barely eat (trust me, I’ve done this too. Speaking from unfortunate experience). Keep tasting as you go.
Fun fact, arborio rice looks very similar to idli rice. In fact, I picked it up and almost used it before I realized there was a slight difference. The idli rice is a little plumper than arborio. Of course, I did more research and found that idli rice can be used as a substitute for arborio because of its a medium grain. When you compare the two side by side, they look very similar.
From my kitchen to yours, Enjoy!
1½ c butternut squash, cubed
1 ½ c arborio rice
1 med onion, diced finely
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp thyme, roughly chopped
6 c veggie broth
1 c Parmesan cheese
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp Oil (Avo or EVOO)
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toss squash with 1 Tbsp oil, salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes.
In a large pot, heat veggie broth until it comes to a boil, then lower the heat to low and cover.
Meanwhile, In a deep and wide pan, heat oil and add onions. Cook for 7-8 minutes until they are cooked through and translucent.
Add in the garlic and cook for 1 minute on med-low flame. Add in the risotto and 2 Tbsp thyme and cook for 8-10 minutes until the rice is toasted and has a light golden red color to it.
Add in 1 ladle of broth and wait for it to burn off while you keep stirring the risotto. As it burns off. Keep adding the broth 1 ladle at a time until you use up all of the broth. As the risotto cooks with the broth, you’ll notice it getting plumper and creamier. When all of the broth is used up, and cooked into the risotto, the texture should be thick and creamy. Turn off the heat and mix in ¾ c Parmesan and mix well.
Add in the butternut squash and remaining thyme and mix.
Serve hot into bowl and garnish with some of the remaining Parmesan cheese.