Leek Risotto

January  1, 2013
14 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Leeks are humble. They often anchor a dish, providing flavor and depth, but rarely take center stage. This risotto celebrates leeks, ensuring their subtle flavor in every creamy bite. I don't like to be pushy, but if you really want a restaurant-quality risotto experience, you must add the whipping cream. (I learned this trick from Thomas Keller.) The cream, whipped to soft peaks, will take the risotto's texture and flavor to the next, glorious level. if you're especially daring, some crumbled prosciutto would finish the dish nicely. —nicolecooks

Test Kitchen Notes

The leek is indeed to be a humble vegetable, but nicolecooks doctors it up with butter, cheese and cream, turning a basic white risotto -- an old standby -- into something worthy of a dinner party. The combination of both shallots and leeks adds a little complexity to the base. And don’t forget to float your chopped leeks in a bowl of water to remove any sand -- it's the best method. —minipanda

What You'll Need
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 3 small leeks, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup carnaroli rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • 1 pinch kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives, for garnish
  1. Place the stock on a low simmer in a stockpot and keep a ladle nearby. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a deep, heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until translucent; do not let them brown. Add the leeks and cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until the leeks have softened. Stir in the rice and toast for 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Pour in the wine and let it simmer until the liquid is absorbed, and continue scraping the pan so that the rice doesn’t stick. Season the rice with salt, then begin adding stock a ladle at a time, stirring often, and allowing most of the liquid to be absorbed before adding more. The rice is cooked once the grains are al dente, fully cooked but with a soft bite on the inside.
  3. Turn off the heat and vigorously beat in the butter and cheese with a wooden spoon to help it emulsify with the rice. If you prefer not to do this on the stove, move the pan to a towel on the counter. Whatever you do, don’t hesitate. Really shake the pan back and forth with one hand while stirring with the other.
  4. Add the whipped cream, then season with salt, only if needed. Continue stirring with abandon until all the ingredients have been incorporated. Serve immediately, garnished with additional Parmesan cheese and chives.
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19 Reviews

Briana November 24, 2023
This turned out better than I expected - rich and comforting, and a perfect way to use up some leeks. I skipped the cream since I didn't have any on hand (added a touch more cheese), but it was still delicious.
Shoppygirl February 22, 2023
absolutely delicious with or without the cream at the end--and a good reminder that risotto doesn't have to be a lot of work to be delicious (and I did add crispy prosciutto at the end!). A keeper.
Hilary September 15, 2020
Really tasty, but way too much liquid. I used just under 4 cups of broth and it was plenty!
Mia J. March 12, 2019
Loved this recipe. Very easy to follow, and it actually was even better the next day reheated (it's a more liquid-y risotto than others might give you). I separately caramelized butternut squash and folded them in after, and it was a huge hit with the dinner party.
Eliot September 11, 2018
I would make this again and again, it was wonderful. I added leeks in right before the corn and some cut up shrimp along with the clams for more dimention. What an amazing meal!
Eliot September 11, 2018
Sorry, wrong recipe!!
Alecsandra T. October 24, 2016
What is the point of the cream here? Other than being something "done in high end restaurants" and a technique used by "Chef Thomas Kellar", what is the actual taste change that happens here when you add it? Call me a skeptic, but I don't see how cream is going to make this dish anything other than more heavy/flat :/
Haley M. April 18, 2019
Cream is essential in many recipes. It melds with other flavors and offers texture. You can run it off.
Juliebell April 23, 2019
Trust me finishing many risottos with cream adds a further silky richness. I have always just added it from the carton but I’m going to try the extra step of whipping. I’ve never been led astray by the advice of Thomas Keller. When he suggests something it will elevate your food.
Stephanie D. February 16, 2016
I made this on the weekend and it was my first time making risotto ever. IT. WAS. AMAZING. So easy to make and it tasted like heaven.

I used Arborio rice because I couldn't find Carnaroli - and it worked out wonderfully. The cream at the end is the icing on the cake.

Fantastic recipe and I can't wait to make it again!
robin L. February 9, 2014
what is carnaroli rice? and regarding the "crumbled prosciutto" for a garnish, do you recommend frying it?
Flirty F. November 21, 2013
Granted that "panna" and leeks tend to be a good combo... But in general ...
Flirty F. November 21, 2013
Does anyone know why do so many American recipes for risotto incorporate cream? I've lived in Italy for almost 7 years even married to one... I assure you that almost never happens. But in the USA it's like status quo...
nicolecooks February 2, 2014
I only use cream in risotto occasionally, and don't see it called for in recipes very often. (Most of the time, I use only butter and Parmesan and give it a very vigorous stir at the end.) The first time I learned of using cream in risotto was from Chef Thomas Keller. I think it's far more common to find it used in restaurants vs. home kitchens, though.
nicolecooks February 4, 2013
I'm so glad you all have been enjoying the recipe! It's one of my favorites.
Foodelf February 2, 2013
I made this last night - something of an achievement in itself for a Friday night! I had prepared and washed the leeks the night before as I always seem to have trouble getting them sufficiently dry to saute. The rest of the recipe came together like a dream. I'm thinking of adding a few sauteed mushrooms to the leftovers and perhaps a whisper of truffle salt.
mlsparks January 31, 2013
This is so delicious! I used mascarpone instead of whipped cream because i had it on hand and somehow forgot the whipping cream when I went shopping, either way it was splendid and delicious! Great recipe
zoemetro U. January 30, 2013
I have made this twice in the last week. It was so good for one dinner I had to share it with the next guests. Or maybe I just wanted it for myself again!! Either way, this is a winning recipe and a treat for any table full of good friends. Thank you.
magproctor January 29, 2013
Super delicious -- the whipped cream makes it gloriously...well, creamy, and, while not light in the calorie sense, almost airy.