Parmesan Risotto Takes Time, but is Sooooo Worth it!


Making Parmesan Risotto will rock your cooking world if you’ve been eating Uncle Ben’s your whole life. Creating this classic Italian dish is intimidating to many people, but it’s incredibly easy to accomplish. It takes some patience, but is always worth the effort.

Risotto is not a type of rice. Risotto is the name of the dish prepared with short grain rice called Arborio. Arborio rice has become known as “Risotto Rice”, but the Risotto method can be used with many other types of rice.

The science of cooking behind rice is “gelatinization of starches”. At 150F (65c), starches will begin to absorb liquids and swell. This is how sauces are thickened, and why the water disappears and the rice gets bigger under cooking.

To make Parmesan Risotto, you’ll need Arborio rice. It’s very sticky rice with a high starch content.

Finished Risotto will stick together, but will be creamy. A well prepared dish will have the texture of tapioca or rice pudding rather than sticky sushi rice.

If you want to make Risotto with seafood, vegetables, or chicken, the procedure is the same. You begin by heating a small amount of fat in the pan and sautéing aromatic ingredients like onion or garlic. Then, you add the Arborio rice and thoroughly coat the grains in fat. This will help inhibit some of the gelatinization of starches, lowering the stick-factor.

Here’s the key to making Parmesan Risotto. Take your time! Add hot liquid in very small amounts, allowing the rice to absorb all the previous liquid before adding more. After about 45 minutes, your rice should be full of liquid and cannot absorb any more. Taste for desired texture and top with as much parmesan cheese as you want.

Parmesan Risotto is a great place to start mastering the Risotto method for making rice. Once you’ve created a creamy flavorful cheese Risotto, then all healthy cooking recipes with Arborio rice will be at your command.

What’s your favorite risotto creation? Risotto with Seafood? Mushroom Risotto? Italian Sausage Risotto? Be sure to leave your comment below...

About Chef Todd

Chef Todd Mohr is a Certified Culinary Educator who has empowered home cooks all over the world with the reliable, dependable, repeatable METHODS behind cooking that build confidence, generate creativity and enable anyone to cook with the ingredients THEY desire.

15 Comments

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  • Tom
    5:30 AM - 24 May, 2011

    I've used all three many times and prefer Vialone Nano. Try it. It also cooks faster than the other two.

    And no way does making Risotto take 45 minutes. 5-10 to sweat the aromatics. Then Arborio is done in 18-22 minutes. V-N takes a few minutes less. Also, just about every chef I've ever seen make Risotto adds acid before adding the stock. White wine is common. Acid will tighten the grain ensuring the rice holds up even after absorbing all the stock. It also adds a background flavor.

  • mylomonkey
    5:47 PM - 1 October, 2010

    Can you explain why it is important to add the liquid a little at a time until absorbed vs dumping it all in at once as with "regular" rice? It all gets absorbed with "regular" rice so what makes the difference?

    Thanks

    • cheftodd
      9:35 AM - 4 October, 2010

      First, I'd tell you to try the experiment yourself and see the results. With Arborio Rice for the Risotto, make it with all the liquid at once, and by adding in parts.
      You'll find a pretty big starchy ball of rice if you dump all the liquid at once.

      Arborio rice is sooooo sticky that adding liquid in increments gives a creamier, rather than sticky and starchy texture.
      You can also add a little bit of cream at the very end of cooking Risotto to make it even smoother, but some chefs would say this is cheating.

  • WickedLissa
    10:50 PM - 22 September, 2010

    What shortcut are they taking when they make risotto in 10 minutes on cooking shows like Hell's Kitchen??? I am baffled because I know proper risotto is a process to make!

    • cheftodd
      9:18 AM - 23 September, 2010

      What???? Cooking shows are entertainment and don't tell you the real truth about cooking???? Are you kidding???

      I have no idea how they make risotto in 10 minutes on TV.
      Maybe Ramsey screams at the risotto so much that it cooks quicker out of fear.
      If you remember, I also had no idea how Julie made beef bourguignon from Julia Child's cookbook perfectly the first time!

      Let's take cooking out of the living room and bring it back into the kitchen.

  • shari
    5:45 PM - 22 September, 2010

    great video, it really helps to acually SEE rather than just follow instructions. Saw the wecast on squash, and I will now be following you more often. I am impressed

    • cheftodd
      9:19 AM - 23 September, 2010

      Thanks for the kind comment, Shari.

      Join the cooking cause! We're burning our recipes and cooking for personal desires.

  • Carolyn Bertram
    3:00 PM - 22 September, 2010

    Chef Todd,

    Thanks for the Fall 10 dishes. (9) plus the goose. Really cute!
    I have been cooking all my life, but have learned so much from you and am a member of the Webcooking classes, plus I will want to take your advanced classes. I have ordered your book and am looking forward to this. You are an inspiration, and I do hope my husband will learn to eat his veggies from the methods I will apply to my home cooking. He is a "picky eater". His mother spoiled him.
    Thanks again,
    C Bertram
    Eugene, Or

    • cheftodd
      9:21 AM - 23 September, 2010

      Thanks for the comment, Carolyn.
      Yes, following recipes makes cooking a chore.
      Basic cooking methods makes cooking a discovery.

  • Joyce
    7:41 PM - 21 September, 2010

    Quick Question: During the phase of adding liquid and allowing the rice to absorb (then repeat); is there a preferred amount of heat to have on the pan? Should it be kept at a high heat, middle of the road temperature or a low heat? I recognize stoves vary significantly, but an understanding of the approximate level of heat would be helpful to me.

    Thanks for the video. I look forward to making this.

    • cheftodd
      7:45 PM - 21 September, 2010

      Always a low, soft simmer. You want the rice to absorb liquid, not evaporate into the atmosphere.

      Risotto should be cooked gently with love. If you haven't seen the movie "The Big Night" with Stanly Tucci you should watch it.

      Two Italian brothers and their passion for Risotto. Great food flick.

  • Jeff Nelson
    3:51 PM - 20 September, 2010

    Hey Todd,
    This is unrelated to risotto but I have been trying to figure out the science behind cooking meats so they fall off the bone for ex. cooking a chicken thigh at 280 for about 3 hours vs 45 min at 425. Do you know the aprox temp where I could get the same results a little quicker & what is going on w/ the protien as it cooks slow. Maybe you could do a course on this cheers

    • cheftodd
      11:02 AM - 21 September, 2010

      Yes, Jeff I do a course on your question of controlling heat to achieve desired results in cooking. It's called WebCookingClasses.com, and you can get a free 14 day trial that will answer all questions.

      The question you ask is a long one to answer, that's why I created an entire course on the subject.
      Briefly, when you apply heat to food there is a progression of results. Starches gelatinize, proteins coagulate, moisture evaporates, and sugars caramelize. At 425F, items will coagulate more quickly and sugars caramelize, giving you a brown, tough item. At 280F, your chicken will stiffen much more slowly, allowing fats to render and connective tissue to dissolve.

      However, you're using a dry convective process in the oven. Air cooks food indirectly. If you want "fall off the bone", you should try a moist convective process with acids added to break down connective tissue.

      Your question is a great one, and it goes to cooking by METHOD over recipes. Exactly what I teach to thousands of people all over the world every day.

  • Tom Downs
    12:16 AM - 16 September, 2010

    There are 3 types of rice, I have read that can be used for risotto: Arborio, Vialone Nano, and Carnaroli. But, I make mine with Arborio do to living in a area with limited availabilities. If anyone has tried making risotto with Vialone Nano, and Carnaroli, please let me know how it comes out. I make it with sauted shallots and garlic, then add the rice, add a dry white wine and fresh chicken stock until it looks magical. Then I spread plenty of Parmigian cheese, maybe mix it up with some Gruyere. I will place a biscuit cutter on the plate and pack the risotto and lift the cutter. Take a sauted chicken breast and lay it against the form and pour a Veloute type sauce on top.... Sprinkle a little more cheese and a turn of ground pepper.. oh, the Mrs' is happy.. Is that a Cuisinox tri-clad pot you're using? We have a glass top and I find it hard to find a good pots to cook with. My wife will not give up the Revere.. I envy the gas stove, Escoffier could master a dish on a hub cap with a gas stove..

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