Risotto with Butter and Parmesan

You’ve got to watch this and stir periodically, but it’s not a big deal.
TIME 45 to 60 minutes
MAKES 4 to 6 servings
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter
1 medium onion, chopped
Large pinch saffron threads, optional
1½ cups Arborio or other short- or medium-grain white rice, rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dry white wine (like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio) or water
6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock or water
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1 Put 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. (Leave the remaining 4 tablespoons butter at room temperature to soften.) When it’s melted and the foam has subsided, add the onion and the saffron if you’re using it and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and the saffron begins to dissolve, 3 to 5 minutes.

2 Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and every grain is coated with the butter, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, add the white wine, and stir until the liquid bubbles away, another minute or two.

3 Add ½ cup of the stock and stir; when the liquid is just about evaporated, add another ½ cup. As each addition of liquid is absorbed, add another, stirring often—but not constantly—after each addition. Adjust the heat so the liquid bubbles steadily but not too rapidly.

4 Begin tasting the rice after about 20 minutes of adding the stock; you might not have to use all of it. You want the texture to be creamy and the grains of rice tender but still with a tiny bit of crunch (it could take another 10 minutes or longer to reach this stage). When it‘s ready, stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and the Parmesan. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve right away, passing additional Parmesan at the table.

  • Seafood Risotto Skip the cheese and use fish stock for the liquid if possible. In Step 4, when the rice is almost done, stir in 1 pound seafood—like peeled medium shrimp, sliced cleaned squid, lump crabmeat, or roughly chopped scallops or thick firm fish fillets—alone or in combination. Cook until the seafood is opaque and tender, 2 to 5 minutes, then stir in the remaining butter and serve.

  • Saffron is undeniably expensive, but a good-size pinch (about ½ teaspoon) brings deep, haunting flavor and rich color to a dish. (Use too much, though, and you wind up with a medicinal taste.)
  • Stock adds a lot of flavor here (and is especially valuable if you don’t use saffron). But risotto made with water is still really good. Just be sure to taste for salt after adding the cheese.
  • Risotto is traditionally made by ladling hot (not boiling) stock into rice, but I don’t think preheating the stock or water is necessary, as long as you add it in small (about ½-cup) increments.

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