spicy-tomato-risotto with a hazelnut goat cheeseball and spring asparagus and English peas

spicy-tomato-risotto with a hazelnut goat cheeseball and spring asparagus and English peas served May 2014

Not much in the pantry and fridge? Is it the end of your shopping week? You are hungry and there’s nothing in the house? But wait. With a cup or so of short grain rice like Arborio, some aromatic vegetables like onion, and the smallest amount of parmesan reggiano you can make a great meal. It is a miracle to think such a meal exists even when the cupboards are almost bare. In our house, risotto gives us comfort even more than mac and cheese! Read more about Risotto in our techniques chapter.



  • 4-5 cups flavored water (use 1 tablespoon of Flavors for Frying to 5 cups water)

  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1/2 cup fine chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic,  sliced
  • pinch or two of salt
  • 1 1/4 cup rice (Arborio)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Other add-ins can be chopped parsley, chive, maybe some mushrooms, peas. Remember this is simple risotto and less is more.


To make the flavored water (stock) use a spice blend, preferably without salt such as Bob’s Flavors for Frying. Add 1 tablespoon of the spice, no salt, to the 5 cups of water and put over medium heat and slowly bring to simmer. The stock must be hot before adding to the rice.

Using a wide bottom pan over medium low heat, add the EVOO and the chopped onions. Sweat onions and garlic paste. Let it cook slowly to keep from burning. When onion is mostly translucent, add the rice. Be sure to completely coat the rice with the fat and onions.  (change the pot if your rice cannot rest on the bottom of the pan in a single layer).

When the rice is shiny and the outer edges are slightly translucent while the center is white, turn the heat up to medium and add the wine or acid. The acid step is critical to deglaze the pan so continue until it evaporates completely.  This also stops the rice from shedding its starch to quickly when stock is added. Now it is time to start adding the hot stock.

Still on medium high heat, add about 3/4 cup stock-water per addition. Let it absorb into the rice before adding more. Stirring and attending the pot now is very important. Don’t let it go bone dry or the rice will stick to the pot and don’t add more before most liquid is absorbed. Stirring or jiggling the pot keeps the rice in motion and helps the rice release starch. The stock thickens. Keep adding subsequent additions of stock until you reach the perfect doneness. After about the first 4 additions of stock, take a taste to check the rice for al dente and salt. Add salt if needed.

So what is al dente about? The center core of the rice is small and yet hard while the outer area is translucent and starchy. When you reach this point, you will also notice that the mixture is very fluid and creamy. It does the “wave” motion when it is jumped as in a saute motion and it gracefully fills in as the rice is parted with a spatula cutting through it.

Have your add ins ready. In this case, the parmesan cheese and butter. Fold them in quickly while risotto is hot to allow them to warm into the risotto. Cover no more than 3 minutes and serve immediately.

If adding herbs, or other add-ins, do so just before pulling from the heat so they warm up a bit.



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