This is probably a silly question ... but is risotto a main dish or a side dish?
The answer is yes! :-) It can be either though I think more typically it is a side or and earlier course in an Italian meal. But you can certainly serve it as a main especially if you add extra veggies or a protien, say shrimp and scallops and peas or something. LOADS of risitto recipes here at Food52 to choose from!!
In my experience, Both. I have served it as a side dish but when a protien is added ( lobster, crab, scallop, Etc.) and served in a big portion with vegetables then it can be served as a main course. Three food groups thoery.
In Italy it would always be either a first course or contorno. In the rice growing areas of the Padania (Po Valley) it is served "al onda" or on the "wave". That would be wet enough to slide around on your plate. In Milano a classic dish is of course osso bucco served over saffron risotto.
In Italy it is also eaten in households just by itself as the only thing they eat for dinner being that thier big meal of the day is what we call lunch time. For dinner they eat a light meal and often it could be as simple as a bowl of rissoto.
It is whatever you want it to be.
Depending on the recipe, it can be time-consuming and/or labor-intensive to make. If I'm doing it as a side dish, I'll serve it with something that's not fussy to make, such as pan-seared steak, that can be cooked side-by-side with the rice.
Most of the time, it's a main dish, with peas or asparagus and shrimp.