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What Is Risotto?
Risotto is an Italian rice dish, traditionally cooked with broth, butter, Parmesan cheese, white wine, and seasonal vegetables. Risotto is traditionally made with arborio rice, a rounded short-grain white rice with a high starch content that gives risotto its signature creamy consistency.
Is Risotto Gluten Free?
Traditional risotto is made with made with arborio or carnaroli rice, which means it’s naturally gluten free. However, some variations on risotto add or substitute additional grains like barley or wheat berries, which contain gluten.
Due to the texture provided by the rice, risotto can also be prepared vegan while maintaining its rich, velvety consistency.
Long grain rice varieties like jasmine and basmati have significantly less starch, which means they can’t be substituted for arborio to make risotto. However, it is possible to get similar results with other starchy grains. See below for the recipe for Chef Wolfgang Puck’s Oatmeal Risotto, which substitutes oats for rice to create a “risotto” alternative that’s just as creamy.
How to Cook Risotto
A typical risotto begins with aromatics like garlic and shallots, which are first sauteed in olive oil. Arborio rice is then added to the pan with the aromatics and toasted to impart a nutty flavor. Once the rice is toasted, the pan is deglazed with white wine.
As the risotto simmers, warm stock or broth is added in small increments (use vegetable broth to make it vegan). This step is crucial, as the rice must fully absorb each addition of stock in order to fully release its starches. The risotto is gently cooked, stirring constantly, until the rice is al dente, with a pleasing chew and soft texture. Finally, the risotto is seasoned to taste and finished with butter for a glossy sheen.
How to Make Risotto: Step-by-Step Guide
Learn Wolfgang Puck’s method for making his signature oatmeal risotto below.
5 Tips for Cooking Risotto
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“When [I] make a risotto, people ask me, ‘Why do you put wine in it?’ Wine has acidity, and acidity balances the flavor,” says Chef Puck. “If you don’t like wine, [use] a little lemon juice or a little vinegar.” Find more risotto cooking tips below.
- Warm your stock. Cold stock straight from the fridge or counter will interrupt the cooking process you’ve already begun with the aromatics and rice. Heat your stock to a simmer, then add the hot stock in increments to the rice to allow it to cook seamlessly.
- And add the stock slowly. During cooking, your risotto needs just enough liquid for the rice to absorb and release its starch, which only happens if the grains are kept close together and moving steadily. If the rice is floating freely, you’ve added too much liquid.
- Stir, stir, stir. Speaking of moving, this is why risotto has a demanding reputation. It needs near-constant stirring to achieve that perfect creamy texture. Too much will turn it to glue, so don’t go crazy—but not enough, and it will stick to the bottom of the pan and may even burn. Aim for a happy middle ground, moving the grains around to encourage them to release their starch.
- Use medium-low heat. “Low and slow” is a phrase you’ll hear a lot with risotto, and that’s mostly true, but don’t go too low. While a vigorous boil won’t the risotto enough time to develop the plump, creamy texture you’re after, cooking it too low will take ages. Aim for a slow simmer: gentle, bubbling and steam is your friend.
- Save the fat for last. The fats found in dairy products can break and separate when heated. If you’re planning to add butter or mascarpone cheese for additional creamy richness, wait until you remove the risotto from the heat to stir it in.
Wolfgang Puck’s Oatmeal Risotto Recipe
Prep Time30 min
Total Time2 hr 30 min
Cook Time2 hr
Chef Wolfgang Puck’s vegan oatmeal risotto uses oats instead of arborio rice, but the cooking principles are the same. With fresh spring peas and morel mushrooms, this risotto can serve as an appetizer or a main course. The sweetness of the peas, the nuttiness of the oats, and the earthiness of morels combine to create a multi-dimensional, creamy dish. Top your risotto with pea tendrils to create a beautiful composition for your next dinner party.
For the vegetable stock:
- 1 leek, roughly chopped
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 qts water
For the risotto:
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 2 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine*
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup pea puree
For the pea puree:
- 2 cups english peas
- 2 cups morel mushrooms*
- 1 cup snap peas, cut at a 45° angle
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 tbsp shallots, minced
- 1 tsp garlic, chopped
- salt and pepper
*This oatmeal risotto recipe features morel mushrooms, but you can choose from a wealth of other mushroom options.
- Pea tendrils
- Mint leaves
- Lemon juice
- Olive oil
- Begin by making the vegetable stock. In a large stockpot on medium-high heat, add olive oil and sauté the leek, carrots, and celery stalks. If you have other leftover vegetables, you can add those too. (Stock should always have carrots, celery, and onions in it, but you can also add leeks, herbs, mushrooms, or any other leftover vegetables you have in your fridge.) Add the thyme and cover with water. Turn the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. Use a chinois or fine mesh strainer to strain the stock into a smaller saucepot and save for the risotto. Keep hot.
- Move on to the risotto. Coat a medium saucepot with olive oil, and place on medium-high heat. When the olive oil is hot, add the shallots and garlic. Sauté, but do not allow to get brown.
- Add the oats, gently coating them with the contents of the saucepot. Deglaze with white wine. Reduce the wine. Once you cannot see any liquid, slowly add the vegetable stock to the risotto one ladle at a time, stirring constantly. When the oats absorb all the vegetable stock, add one more ladle. Repeat until the oats are cooked through, creamy with just a little firmness. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.
- While the risotto cooks, make your pea puree. In a small saucepot, bring 4 cups of water (and a little salt) to a boil.. Remember to stir your risotto while you make the pea puree. Add in peas, boiling them until they float. Then remove and blanch them in ice water so that they keep their green color. Puree the peas in a blender, or pass them through a food mill. You can add the blanching liquid for easier blending. Blend until smooth.
- Now, prepare the vegetables. Cut the morels in quarters, and submerge them in a bowl of water. Any sand or dirt will sink to the bottom. Using your hands, retrieve the mushrooms from the water. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil to medium high. Add the morels, salt, pepper, thyme, shallots, and garlic. Stir.
- Cook the morels until all the water has evaporated to ensure a concentrated flavor. Add the snap peas, and cook briefly, in order to keep their crunchy texture and vibrant green color. Season with a little more salt. Taste.
- Now fold a small amount of the pea puree into the risotto. Do this at the last minute to make sure the green color is retained. (You won’t use all the pea puree in the risotto, so freeze for later use.)
- To plate, put a scoop of risotto in the center of the plate, shaking the plate gently to spread out the risotto. Place a spoonful of the morel mixture into the center of the risotto, making sure to remove the thyme. Place 2–3 pea tendrils and a few mint leaves on top of the morel mixture. Squeeze some lemon over the pea tendrils.
- Top risotto with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.
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