by Darina on November 27, 2013

Post image for Risotto

My first exposure to risotto was at a high end restaurant shortly after I graduated from university. My friend had chosen it as a venue to celebrate her twenty-fifth birthday. Thanks to a useless Fine Arts degree, I was working as a receptionist at the time, and ordered the risotto because it was the cheapest thing on the menu. Along with a glass of wine and the tip, my meal came to over fifty bucks–more than a week’s worth of groceries back then. So I became bitter about risotto.

Fast forward almost a couple of decades and I am now a risotto cooking master. When I’m stumped for something elegant yet easy, comforting but not too rich, I reach for the arborio rice. Like its Italian cousin, pasta, the varieties of risotto are endless. I’ve used all manner of mushroom, herb, and shellfish, squash, vegetable, cheese, and even preserved lemon. Once you have the basics down, it’s really up to you how you want to swing this baby.

It’s cheap, too–unless you order it in a restaurant, where you’re paying for the chef to stand at the stove and stir it for half an hour. At home, you don’t even have to do that. You can make a oven cooked risotto–like in this recipe.

For stove top risotto, I always use the same formula to feed four people: one cup rice to one litre of stock and 1/3 cup of cooking wine. I find that ratio works well to produce a risotto that is not too hard and not too soft, but a lot will depend on the temperature of your stove. I had to experiment a bit with mine. Oh, and I always, always add a knob of butter to the pot when it’s done for extra silkiness and flavour.

Now I cannot take credit for the following recipes. That belongs to Donna Hay and her people, who always come up with the most marvelous twists on tried and true dishes, like this first recipe for mixed mushroom and almond milk risotto with crispy sage (erm… you’ll notice, however, the lack of sage in above photo, as my summer herbs have been dying a slow death and sage was not to be found at my local market for some reason). Almond milk! Could I ever be that creative?

So a few hints before you heat up that stove. You have to have the right rice. I mentioned arborio, but any high starch, short grain rice will do, like carnaroli or vialone nano, because it needs to absorb a lot of liquid in order to release the starch. That’s the whole point. Always use hot stock to cook the rice–which means keep it simmering on another element–otherwise the stock will lower the temperature of the risotto and produce a glue-like consistency. Also, use a heavy saucepan to cook the risotto in, to keep it from burning, and stir constantly, which will also keep it from burning but will also allow the starch to be released. The result you’re looking for should be a rich and creamy risotto with a little bit of that al dente bite .

Donna Hay’s Mixed Mushroom and Almond Milk Risotto with Crispy Sage
from issue #68

serves 6


olive oil, for frying
1/2 cup sage leaves
25g unsalted butter
3 eschalots (French shallots), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
30 grams dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in 2 cups (500ml) boiling water
1/3 (80ml) cup brandy
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 cups (400g) arborio rice
1.5 litres hot chicken stock
1/2 cup (40g) finely grated Parmesan
1 cup (250ml) almond milk
40g unsalted butter, plus extra
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra
300g mixed mushrooms
truffle oil (optional) to serve



1) Heat 1cm of oil in a small, non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the sage leaves and cook for 1 minute, or until crispy. Drain on paper towel and set aside.
2) Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the eschalot and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until translucent. Strain the dried mushrooms, reserving the liquid; add to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes or until warmed through.
3) Add the brandy, salt and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes, or until warmed through. Add the stock and reserved mushroom liquid 1 cup at a time (250ml), adding more once absorbed, stirring frequently, for 20-25 minutes, until the rice is al dente and the risotto is not too thick nor too soupy.
4) Remove from heat and stir through Parmesan and almond milk. Heat the extra butter and oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the mixed mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until golden.
5) Top the risotto with the mixed mushroom, crispy sage leaves, and drizzle with truffle oil to serve.

Donna Hay’s Four Cheese Risotto
nov.cheese.risotto.titledfrom issue #68

serves 6


15g unsalted butter
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup (80ml) dry white wine
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 cups (400g) arborio rice
1.5 litres hot chicken stock
250g mozzarella, torn
1/2 cup (125g) mascarpone
1/2 cup (40g) finely grated Parmesan
100g Gorgonzola or blue cheese, sliced


1) Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until translucent. Add the wine, salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes.
2) Add the stock, 1 cup (250 ml) at a time, adding more once absorbed, and cook, stirring frequently, for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is al dente.
3) Remove from heat and stir through the mozzarella and mascarpone. Divide the risotto between plates and top with the Parmesan and Gorgonzola.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lorrie Fulton November 28, 2013 at 6:50 am

I love making risotto! Assembling my ingredients (and pouring a glass of wine for myself), tying on an apron, going to the stove, and standing there stirring for half an hour is one of the best therapy sessions I know. Thanks for a lovely post!

Mushrooms Canada December 3, 2013 at 8:20 am

Roch, creamy risotto is the perfect comfort for this cool season. This is such a lovely recipe… thanks for sharing!


Sonia Monagheddu December 11, 2013 at 9:08 am

I love it!

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