Kitchen Confidence

How to Make Any Risotto in 5 Steps

March 11, 2013

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: The 5 steps to making any risotto, using whatever odds and ends you've got.


Risotto seems so fancy, doesn't it? It's something you bookmark in a magazine or cookbook and save to make someday, when you'll take a special trip to the grocery store, for that dinner party you've been meaning to host.

But the truth is: you can (and should!) make risotto anytime, and you don't even really need to measure anything. All you need is short grain rice, liquid, and about 40 minutes. What's in the fridge -- bacon or mushrooms or peas? They'll be good in here too.

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How to Make Any Risotto in 5 Steps

1. Get stock warming on the stove.


2. In another wide pot, sauté onion (or garlic or shallots) in olive oil (or butter).


3. Add short grain rice, like carnaroli or arborio (remember: it will roughly double in size). Toast till the rice is just warm, and it looks "impregnated" with the fat (as Elizabeth David says). Optional: Splash in a few glugs of wine (or sherry or vermouth or beer).


4. Add ladles of stock, stir sometimes, watch it bubble down, add more -- you'll want to keep it generously saucy as you go, not dry. Running low on stock? Add water to the stock pot. Watch the rice swell up, release starch, and get creamy.


5. Taste the rice as you go; let it plump without going mushy. Leave it saucy. Beat in a pat or two of cold butter, and parmesan if you like. Serve right away. Whatever you don't eat, save to make arancini!


Still want a recipe? Here are a few for inspiration:

We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you could make in your sleep, without a recipe.

Photos by James Ransom


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • emcsull
  • FoodieGoesHealthy
  • betscran
  • Sammi M
    Sammi M
  • Muse
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


emcsull October 27, 2014
and if I mention Barbara Kafka's microwave risotto, will anybody ever talk to me again ?
FoodieGoesHealthy November 17, 2013
Just re-read the comments- it looks like par-cooking brown rice is the way to go, or maybe the oven method with some stove top stirring is promising too.
FoodieGoesHealthy November 17, 2013
Yes, I tried short grain brown rice in a sauté pan using Marcella Hazan's method. It took like 50 minutes of stirring at least. The recipe came out, but I would never stand at the stove stirring for that long again. I might try farro or barley instead next time.
betscran November 17, 2013
I'd like to try this with short grain BROWN rice...anyone tried it before?
Sammi M. May 11, 2013
I used this article to make risotto for the first time last night and it was easy and delicious! I made it vegan, using vegetable broth and arborio rice. I added chopped red pepper, asparagus and broccoli when I started to add the broth to the rice. It turned out perfectly and I will definitely make it in the future!
Muse March 31, 2013
Who doesn't love goodness the asparagus and peas with shrimp = Heaven!
Linn March 21, 2013
Nice to see something so many of us do intuitively acknowledged in print. Given the sophistication of food 52'ers, you must be swamped with contributions.
Kristen M. March 23, 2013
We'd love to see more!
lsgerman March 17, 2013
I just made the mushroom asperagus risotto from Food 52 last week. It took me back to the time I lived in northern Italy. It was so similar. I haven't lost my love of risotto! The risotto I made was wonderful and a big hit.
eboyd March 17, 2013
I recently made a shrimp risotto using half arborio and half wheat berries. I added both grains at the same time. It turned out perfect - the starchy arborio broke down and provided the creaminess that is so crave able in risotto, while the wheat berries provided the perfect al dente, toothsome quality. I will definitely make it with this mixture again. It was served atop a bed of sliced and roasted brussels sprouts. great combo, all around.
betscran March 17, 2013
ok so call me extremely naive (and more than a smidge hopeful!) there really no stirring in this recipe?
Kristen M. March 23, 2013
betscran, there is -- see step 4. But stirring's not so bad! And you don't need to do it the whole time, especially if you keep it nice and saucy as you go (less risk of burning the rice).
Kristen W. March 17, 2013
Thanks for this! The "not really a recipe" concept is EXACTLY what I'm looking for as I continue to grow as a cook!
Rino March 16, 2013
Anyone know the name in Spanish for rice used in risotto. I'm living in colombia and not sure which rice to buy
CookOnTheFly March 16, 2013
"Arroz" is the common denominator, but look for the ones for paella. They will work great.
Renée (. March 17, 2013
Generally, arborio rice is used for risotto. It should be the same, no matter the language.
mary M. March 12, 2013
I have gotten very relaxed in making risotto. A few years ago I started adding at least half the stock (cold) all at one time, bringing it to a boil, stirring only occasionally, turning it off (sometimes for hours) and finishing close to serving time. Just recently I started putting 80-90% of the stock in, bringing it to boil, covering and popping it into a hot oven for 30-40 minutes and finish on the stove in only 5-10 minutes before serving. I don't really think you can ruin this dish.
DrGaellon March 17, 2013
I did just the same this week. Sauteed onion, garlic and saffron in oil and butter, added rice and stirred until it was glossy and hot, added 2/3 of the stock and some wine, brought it to a boil, popped on a tight lid and threw it in a hot oven for 20 minutes. When it came out, I added the rest of the stock (heated in the microwave) and the cheese, then stirred hard. Not QUITE as creamy as the real thing, but very serviceable and a lot less fussy.
Greenstuff March 11, 2013
Super new feature! It's real cooking when you say, "It's not really a recipe, but..." Good work, Kristen. Keep them coming.
AntoniaJames March 11, 2013
Love the "Not Recipes" concept. Hope we'll see a lot more like this. ;o)
FoodieGoesHealthy March 11, 2013
Is there such a thing as brown rice for risotto?
pigisyummy March 12, 2013
you can totally make brown rice risotto, you just want to make sure you buy the short grain and not long grain kind. you can also make any other kind of grain this way - farro, wheatberrries, etc.
DrGaellon March 17, 2013
You can, but it won't be as creamy and will take a lot longer to cook. Make sure you get a short-grain brown rice. It might take well to the oven/no-stir risotto I described above.
DrGaellon March 17, 2013
I love barley as risotto, myself...
Can I. March 17, 2013
Mark Bittman did a column on this last October. If you precook the short grain brown rice for about 15 minutes and drain, you can start at the same place that this not-really-a-recipe starts. It's really creamy and good, and much better than if you start with raw brown rice. Here's the link:
FoodieGoesHealthy March 17, 2013
Thanks for the helpful input for making risotto with brown rice!
Liz J. March 11, 2013
Thanks! A friend once gave me this rule of thumb for portions, too: a handful of rice for each person and one for the table.
Amanda H. March 11, 2013
Like this -- I use the same for salad. Large handful per person. But now I'm going to start adding one for the table.
Merrill S. March 11, 2013
mrslarkin March 12, 2013
Love that tip. Like making teaspoon tea for each cup being served, and one for the pot!
thirschfeld March 12, 2013
or like when at a bar, one for each but two for the person who is buying the next round
Kenzi W. March 12, 2013
Ha, this is fantastic. (And a great rule, as it happens.)