Risotto is hella delish and perfect for winter, but can be an absolute muthaf*cker for the uninitiated. But not with these five killer tips from Tutto Bene’s, Nathan Scarfo, who shows GRAM’s Lauren Bruce how to whip together a risi e bisi (rice and pea) risotto. Bonus recipe for you, too, Louisa.
Despite being known for its simplicity, making the perfect risotto – the texture, the flavour, the stock-to-rice ratio – eludes most of us. Here’s five tips to make you the boss-o of risotto.
Tip 1: Cook your onion properly
You want to make sure you “cook your onion out,” says Scarfo. “This takes time. Cook for 10-12 minutes until they’re caramelising; until you’re getting the sweetness out of them. That’s super important.”
Tip 2: Choose your rice wisely
While many of us go for the arborio variety, Scarfo says this isn’t the best rice to make risotto as this rice has been milled so much that the grains lose too much of their starch. “Use carnaroli rice,” Scarfo says. “The starch content is higher [than your arborio]. This results in a better texture for the risotto.”
Tip 3: “Crack” the rice
This is a tip that is rarely circulated among those endeavouring to make risotto, but Scarfo says it is vital. “When your onions are caramelised and translucent and you add the rice, the rice will be ready for liquid to be added once it makes a cracking sound. In the super hot pan once your rice is nice and toasted, your white wine goes in.”
Tip 4: Always cook with wine that you’re willing to drink
“White wine in my opinion is one of the banging tips; because if you don’t put the wine in there, you don’t actually release all of the starch content.” And why is it important to use wine you’re willing to drink? “Because there’s always leftovers.”
“I love my wine so I don’t cook with anything I don’t drink.”
Tip 5: Use hot stock and cold butter
The hot stock will help your rice cook quicker, which may mean the difference between a risotto being ready to eat in 20 minutes or 40 minutes, Scarfo says. Then when you’re ready to add the cheese and the butter, make sure your butter is cold: “It doesn’t emulsify properly if you don’t”.
“The cold butter cools the risotto down somewhat, so what you’re doing is you’re adding that cold butter, mixed with the [warm] starchiness, to create a ‘cream’. The emulsification of the fat, the soluble, the water… you’re taking liquids that don’t normally gel together, and you’re making them combine.”
Some phrases to remember
Montecato: This is about working the rice, Scarfo says. “Montecato refers to adding in the cold butter, the parmigiano, and all your other ingredients that don’t need to be cooked through, and then physically working the risotto. Working the risotto is scraping the edges of the pot to bring the starches back into the grains themselves, and emulsifying the stock with the starch leftover.”
All`onda: “When you’re cooking your risotto, you need to make sure the mixture is fairly wet; so when you’re working the rice, you want to be able to hear the mixture as you’re working it. When you serve it, you want to achieve the all`onda texture, which translates to ‘like a wave’. You want your risotto to hit the plate and just glide. If it glides, you’re good. If it runs, you’re in trouble.”
“Use a great parmigiano. This provides the risotto with its flavour; its umami.”
“Never throw out leftovers. Use your leftovers in arancini.”
Tutto Bene’s risi e bisi (rice and pea risotto) Serves 4
500g Ferron Via annone risotto
2 brown onions
2 bay leafs
1.8L of vegetable stock
2 cloves garlic (good quality locally produced is recommended)
6 banana shallots
100ml good quality extra virgin olive oil
20g dried fennel seeds
400g green peas (200g in 2 containers) blanched and refreshed in ice water
¼ bunch thyme
200g unsalted butter
200g grated Parmesan (good quality is recommended,
Reggiano Parmegaio aged for 48 months)
Bring medium size pot half filled with water and a pinch of salt to the boil.
Thinly slice the garlic, 2 shallots and finally chop the thyme. Sautée in a pan with extra virgin olive oil till golden and tender (20 minutes on medium heat). Don’t burn the onions!
Blanch 200g of the peas in the boiling water till they go vibrant and green, quickly strain and add to blender with sautéed onions (keeping in mind everything needs to be hot). Blend for 4 minutes or until smooth and shiny. Adjust seasoning. Set aside and if not using straight away an ice bath is recommended to keep the pea puree nice and green.
Thinly slice pancetta and cut into 1cm squares and add to a pan once cut. Cook until crispy and the fat has leaked into the pan.
Drain into a fine sieve keeping all the oil. This is very important!
Peel the shallots and julienne (thinly slice).
Add the shallots into the same pan you cooked the pancetta in and add the strained fat and fennel seeds and pinch of salt and cook till golden and tender. Then add to the fine sieve with pancetta. Set aside.
Fine dice onion and cook with bay leaf in olive oil in medium size pot.
Bring vegetable stock to the boil once onions have turned translucent and are smelling fragrant and sweet.
Add the risotto, turn the heat up and stir until the rice is hot but don’t burn the sides.
The rice will make a cracking sound when ready and you won’t be able to touch the risotto with the back of your hand.
Using one ladle at a time, slowly add the boiling stock until all added.
Stir every 30 seconds to one minute to avoid it sticking.
Once the risotto has absorbed all the liquid, it should be creamy and almost dry.
Add the butter, Parmesan and 200g of freshly blanched green peas.
Finally add 1 ½ tablespoons of pea puree per person.
Now you need to work it! Stir, stir and stir some more. If your arms are not sore after making risotto you haven’t made it right. It should be luscious and creamy.
Finally add seasoning. Risi e Bisi loves lots of freshly cracked black pepper.