I love risotto, more than most people.
Lots of people stop me on the street to ask, “Good sir, why do you like risotto so much?”
This is my answer. (or you can jump to the recipe)
The Joy of Risotto
In 2004, there was a landmark study involving 1,500 people, selected with a diversity of age, ethnicity, gender identity, and socioeconomic status. The focus of the study? Risotto. Among the study’s many findings were that 98% of people who make risotto are measurably happier after they make it. What’s more: the happiness boost lasts for an incredible 6 days on average after they are done making risotto. After making risotto just one time, 73% of the study’s participants said risotto is “definitely the best food”, and another 12% said risotto is “probably the best food”.
Now if you’re looking for a citation, you won’t find it; I made up the study and the figures. But trust me when I say I’m pretty darn sure that the results would hold up if such a study were ever conducted.
Risotto is a joy to eat, and an equal or greater joy to make.
To make good risotto, you must pay constant attention, but also be willing to relinquish control. The risotto must be allowed to develop on its own. When you cook risotto, you are less a chef, and more like a guide for the risotto to find its own unique form.
Making risotto will also make you a better person. After cooking risotto just one time, 93% of the study’s participants strongly agreed with the statement: “I am no longer afraid to die, because I have tasted God on my tongue”.
Why everybody should make risotto, especially those new to cooking
- Making risotto will give you a master class in deglazing a pan. Every time you add broth, you are deglazing the yummy caramelization from the rice. The slow development of flavor gives the deep, rich flavor of a good risotto
- Risotto is a wonderful dish to develop a “loose control” mentality. Risotto requires constant checking in, but you can’t just stand there for 45 minutes or you’ll be bored out of your mind. You have to have some other things you’re working on, but continue to return to the risotto repeatedly. This kind of loose attention is fantastic for developing a clear mind
- The process of making risotto is a meditative practice. Because you have to return to the risotto frequently, your brain will not have the space for worrying about the day behind you or the days ahead. This kind of forced mindfulness is a true gift in our hurried day and age. You don’t have to do anything special, just focus on the risotto.
- Cooking risotto will hone your attention. Is the rice dry enough to add more broth? Is the ladle of broth too full? Did I scrape up all the brown bits after I added the broth? Is the heat too high? Too low? Can I leave it alone for 3 minutes while I prep my brussels sprouts? Since the process of making risotto is naturally spread over a long time period, your brain will find a way to pay attention to all of these different elements, without it feeling overwhelming. Instead of feeling like everything is going to burn down, the slow pace of risotto naturally allows you to pay attention to the details without worrying about any one choice.
- Risotto is very forgiving! Think you made a mistake? You didn’t. Think you let it dry out too much? No way. Think you added too much broth? Just wait a bit longer before adding more. Remember: risotto is just rice, and most of us have cooked rice. If you ruined your risotto, I want to hear about it in the comments because I don’t believe you.
- Risotto will help build your cooking intuition. When to add more broth, when to adjust the heat, when to call it done: all of these things cannot be written down in a recipe; they must be experienced. Only you will be able to answer these questions in the moment, and it will make you a more confident cook.
- It’s badass. Risotto seems hard but its actually easy, so you can impress people.
Ok now that you’re craving risotto hard, let’s dive into a recipe!
- 1 onion1, diced
- 4-6 Tbsp of butter2
- ¼ cup - ½ cup white wine
- 5 cups of water3
- 5 Tbsp miso paste4
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 8oz mushrooms5, roughly chopped
- Some salt and pepper
- A dash of red wine vinegar if you’re using crimini mushrooms
- (optional) fresh parmesan cheese
1 White onion is best, yellow will work fine, red will be very different but go for it if that’s your jam
2 Use vegan butter for an easy vegan meal!
3 I like my risotto saucy and creamy. If you prefer a tighter, thicker risotto, just reduce the amount of water
4 I am not an expert in types of miso paste. I actually used this broth base because I was out of miso paste and couldn’t find it at the store when I went looking. I recommend using whatever you have on hand. Adjust the amount depending on your salt tolerance.
5 Buy the best ones you can find! Lion’s Mane or Oyster mushrooms are both a great fit. Crimini will also work fine. Feel free to use more than 8oz if you love mushrooms! If you’re in the Austin, TX area, consider supporting Hi-Fi Mycology, their mushrooms are excellent
1. Heat the broth
- Add the water and miso paste to a pot and heat over medium heat.
- You want the broth hot but not boiling. If it boils at any point, just turn it down a bit.
- The broth will continue to heat throughout the cooking. Use the closest burner to where you’re going to cook the rice; this will make it easier to ladle in the broth to the risotto.
2. Cook the onion
- Heat 2-3 Tbsp of butter in a large stainless steel sauté pan
- Add the onion, stirring occasionally, until browned
3. Cook the rice
- Add the rice to the onion and stir to combine. Let it cook for a little bit, a minute max
- Add the wine. Stir everything together and then leave it alone to absorb the wine
- When the wine is almost all absorbed, the pan should be fairly dry. If you have some brown spots on the pan, that’s a good thing
4. Add the broth
- Add 1 ladle full of hot broth to the rice. Stir to combine
- Allow the broth to be absorbed into the rice. Stir as necessary (you can scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan every time you add broth!)
- When the broth is absorbed and the pan is nearly dry, repeat step 4 until you have no more broth
- As the rice cooks, it will take longer and longer to absorb the broth. This is your golden time you can use to focus on other parts of the dish!
- It will probably take at least 30 - 40 minutes to cook the rice this way. Be patient - the process is the whole thing! If you finish way faster, you probably aren’t letting the rice dry up enough before adding more broth.
5. Sauté the mushrooms
- In a separate pan, heat 2-3 Tbsp of butter
- Add the mushrooms and stir
- Add some salt and pepper. If you’re using crimini mushrooms, a dash of red wine vinegar will bring out the umami. It can be a little overwhelming for more delicate mushrooms though which is why I only recommend it for crimini
- Cook until the mushrooms are the texture you like. Set aside
6. Combine and savor the flavor
- Dish some risotto onto your plate and top with mushrooms
- Top with parmesan if you want
- Savor the flavor, you earned it
- Zucchini or yellow squash!
- Pretty much anything you want to try!