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Recipe: Basic Risotto

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With Tips on How to Adapt it With Whatever You’ve Got!

Rich, creamy, and endlessly versatile, risotto can be made to suit almost any occasion during any season using almost entirely pantry ingredients. And if you want to go beyond your pantry, you can certainly use whatever you have on hand. No special trip to the grocery store is needed, and the perfect way to use up what’s in the fridge.

Despite this, risotto has a reputation for being a special occasion dish. But honestly, risotto is as basic — and affordable — as it comes. The most simple version is made with only olive oil, onion, rice, and broth, but we include notes on how you can riff below. And, as a 2-pot dish that cooks in 18 minutes flat, we’d say it’s a perfect family meal.

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Basic Risotto

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  • Author: Stacie and Meghan
  • Yield: 4 1x



6 to 8 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
3/4 cup grated cheese (typically parmesan)
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
Salt and pepper


1. Add the stock to a medium pot set over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low to keep the broth hot, but not boiling; we don’t want much to cook-off.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or high-sided pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes.

This is where you’d add most veggies and other ingredients, like sausage or bacon, to personalize your risotto. You’d saute the ingredients until done before adding the rice. Some veggies, especially ones that release a lot of water, like mushrooms, are sautéed separately and added at the end, but when moving fast on weeknights, you can certainly add them here. Just be sure to cook off most of the liquid before adding the rice. If necessary, you can add another tablespoon or two of olive oil so that the rice won’t stick.

3. Add the rice, stirring to make sure that all of the grains get well coated with oil, and cook until rice begins to turn translucent, about another 2 minutes.

4. Add the wine, and stir, cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

5. Begin adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir constantly, waiting for each batch of broth to be about 3/4 absorbed before adding the next. (One way to tell if it’s time to add more broth: your spoon should leave a trail that holds for a moment as you drag it across the bottom of the pan.) Risotto is done when the rice is al dente — it should be cooked through but still be a little toothsome. You may not use all of the broth. In fact, towards the end of the cooking process — which should take about 18-20 minutes — you may want to start tasting along the way and adding the broth in smaller amounts to ensure that you don’t overcook your rice.

6. Remove risotto from the heat and stir in parmesan, butter, salt, and pepper.

You can also stir in zest and finishing herbs here, as well.

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