Risotto The Simplest Way

Risotto snobs say their way is the only way. They’re wrong, and they’re right. Cook it to the consistency you like. And stick with it.

The secret to success with risotto is to have two large, heavy-based pots, one for cooking the rice, the other for preparing and maintaining a stock at a simmer while you are making whoopee with the rice. A vegetable stock is best as the basis for anything, but it needs to be made of a decent load of aromatics: plenty of carrots, plenty of celery, plenty of parsnip, mushrooms (fresh and dried), a good amount of black pepper, some herbs, bay leaves and not much more. Just do it once a week, and you can keep it on top of the stove. If you’re not that organised, a vegetable stock can be made almost instantly, particularly if you have a pressure cooker. It is, after all, not much more than a ‘tea’, but in this case the water is flavoured with vegetables. Dream on baby, you say – vegetable stock??

Ideally, a full-flavoured vegetable stock is more than enough to give the grains a new lease of life, like a pretty party dress or a new bow tie does to the wearer. A new lease of life, but not a makeover. And cop this: whatever the guide books say, risotto tastes very good if made with no more than boiling water. Don’t be put off if you can’t be bothered with a stock.

Remember that rich stocks are going to be cooked down, and cooked down, and ingrained in the rice as the cooking process continues. If you’re cooking a fish-based risotto, perhaps simply add 1 cup of fish stock at the end or at the very least add the juices saved from mussels, clams or oysters.

2 small onions, peeled and chopped finely

1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped finely

zest of 2 lemons

½ cup virgin olive oil

400 g (2½ cups) Arborio rice – This will easily serve 6 hungry people.

plenty of vegetable stock or boiling water

juice of 1 lemon

50 g butter

parsley, roughly chopped

plenty of parmesan


Cook the onion, garlic and lemon zest gently in the olive oil, allowing them to glisten rather than fry. Keep stirring gently for a few minutes, until the onion softens.


Toss in the rice, and stir it around on a low heat for a couple of minutes to allow each grain to be touched by the oil.


Add a ladle of boiling stock, stirring through the rice until the stock has been absorbed. Repeat about five more times, stirring until the rice absorbs the stock. The whole process will take about 15 or 16 minutes: you can bet on it.

You can feel and see the rice getting to the cooked stage. It is obvious that it has been cooked through. Test is by feel and taste. It is better to test too often than to find you have a soggy overcooked mass, or an undercooked bunch of crunchy individuals. A hefty stir at the end will set free the last of the starch from the rice. Sometimes this creaminess is reached by the addition of loads of butter, sometimes from the addition of the last touch of stock. Work it out, and stick with what you like.


When the risotto has reached its ideal state – it should have some pourability, but not by any sense a liquidity (unless that’s what you really like!) – mix through the sauces or textures you like. Add the lemon juice. At its most basic, minimalist level, it works very well with no more than butter and parsley and parmesan.

WINE: The gentle flavours of the rice need a wine of elegance and style. Look no further than a soft, quality pinot noir, from the Yarra Valley.