A good, basic formula for risotto is a great thing to have. I think of it as a spring dish – perfect for that time when green things start to poke out of the ground, all ready to be plucked and plunked into a pot of risotto. (It’s also warm and creamy comfort food for those first weeks of spring when there’s still snow on the ground.)
The thing about risotto is – it’s intimidating. People pay big bucks for a bowl of perfectly cooked, creamy rice in fancy restaurants when it’s one of the most economical dishes you can make. It stretches small quantities of ingredients a long way – a half a sausage, handful of mushrooms or a quarter of a zucchini doesn’t seem sparse when it’s in a pot of risotto.
Risotto is mostly rice and stock. The rice you choose is key: it must be short or medium-grained rice, which gives up its starch to thicken the dish and make it creamy and almost saucy. Arborio is the most common Italian short-grain rice you’ll see on supermarket shelves. And because it has an almost infinite shelf life, it’s an easy thing to keep on hand in the pantry, along with some stock.
Step one: saute a finely chopped onion, perhaps some garlic and any hardy aromatics – spices, tough herbs like rosemary, mushrooms, perhaps a small quantity of spicy sausage. Add the rice and cook it for a minute, stirring to coat the grains with the oil or butter; some leave the rice in for a few more minutes to toast it a little.
If you like, add a splash of wine and let it cook off. Then it’s time to add the stock. Many recipes tell you to heat it first, but I prefer to use it straight from the shelf; at room temperature it doesn’t slow the cooking down like fridge-cold stock does. Add about a half cup at a time.
And then all you need to do is cook it, stirring occasionally – there’s no need to stand by the stove, attached to the pot – until the rice absorbs the stock enough that a trail is left at the bottom if you drag your spoon through. If it doesn’t fill up immediately, it’s time to add more stock. That’s it. Add stock and cook and stir until it’s absorbed, then add more until there’s no more left.
By then it should resemble risotto – creamy with tender rice that’s still slightly firm to the bite. If the rice still has a hard core, it needs more time – and a little more stock – but cook it to your taste. At the end you can add a knob of butter, some Parmesan cheese, a squeeze of lemon, and I like to add a handful of greens, like thinly sliced kale, spinach, chard or even arugula.
And seafood loves to cook in risotto – it’s a gentle way to cook raw shrimp or scallops in particular; stir them into the hot risotto, put on the lid and let them cook for a few minutes, just until the seafood is opaque. Is there a tastier way to usher in spring?
Spinach & Kale Risotto (With or Without Shrimp)
Adapted from Cook with Campbell’s
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 cup (175 mL) Arborio (or other short-grain) rice
1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine or water
1 carton (480 mL) CAMPBELL’S Stock First ™ Chicken stock (or 2 cups stock)
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) butter
1/4 cup (60 mL) Parmesan cheese (or to taste)
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 cup (250 mL) chopped fresh spinach, kale and/or chard
1/4 lb. (125 g) raw, peeled shrimp and/or scallops (optional)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat and sauté onion until soft, 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
Add the rice and stir to coat with oil, then add the wine and cook until it’s absorbed.
Add the stock 1/4-1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and adding more as the stock is absorbed by the rice until all the stock is absorbed; about 30-35 minutes. The rice should be creamy in appearance and firm but not crunchy.
Stir in the butter and cheese, then the parsley, and greens, cooking just until they wilt. Serve immediately or stir in the seafood, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes, just until it’s opaque.
Serve immediately, with extra Parmesan at the table. Serves 2-4.
A note about leftovers: If you are feeling really adventurous, spread the risotto onto a baking sheet and allow it to cool. Then form the risotto into puck like patties and fry them. Use these as the starch component of a larger dish.
This post was generously sponsored by Campbell’s, but the opinions and images are my own. For more quick and easy meals kids will love, visit CookwithCampbells.ca.