RISOTTO WITHOUT A RECIPE
I could eat risotto everyday. It is a staple in my family and in the area of Italy where I live.
As you probably already know, in the Northern part of our country there are several risaie, where our special rice is grown.
There are so many types, but as far as I know, typical rice to be used for risotto could be Arborio, carnaroli and originario.
The first two kinds are more aristocratic, if I can use such an adjective for food: longer and rounder grain that usually keep better cooking times and are less at risk of overcooking.
Originario is the humblest and friendly round small grain rice, still lovely and probably the one that was most used in my childhood without supermarkets, at the time people used to grow their vegetable gardens, keep some hens for eggs and shop at the local convenience store.
We eat risotto very often: I am always quite surprised when I compare to other areas of Italy where rice pops up only every once in a while on the table.
I believe we have never used a recipe to cook it. Basically what you do is, choosing a flavor (vegetables are my favorites, yet meat and fish can be used) and go with the flow.
The secret to a creamy risotto is the cooking time and the choice of the rice. Italian rice as the above mentioned, will ensure that the grains will not stick together and they will release starches while cooking that create the creamy consistence. You can cheat and add some cheese (cream cheese and the like) to make it creamier, but that is not the proper way.
What you need:
A little olive oil
A pinch of salt
1 espresso cup of rice for each person
Broth in abundance (or plain salted water, please spare me the horrible commercial bouillon with MSG inside, food needs personality, not industrial flatness)
Vegetable of your choice (carrots, zucchini, mushrooms…go seasonal: now it is time to go with beautiful asparagus and fresh peas), finely minced (in the case of asparagus, peel the tougher outer part beneath and chop in ½ inch chunks. Tops can be left up to 1 inch chunks and set aside)
Parmigiano, grated, to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
A dollop of butter
How to do it:
Bring water/broth to a boil.
Sauté the onion in a little olive oil with a pinch of salt until the onion is nice and golden.
Add the veggies, more salt to taste and cook them a little (5 to ten minutes depending on vegetables. Carrots take sensibly more time. For the asparagus, at this point do not add the tops).
Add the rice and sauté a little more until you smell the fragrance of the rice, being careful not to scorch it.
Now it is the time to add broth/water. Add it a little at a time, such as a ladle, let the rice sip it, when the liquid is almost absorbed, add another ladle.
After 13 minutes or so (check rice cooking time on package, usually Arborio cooks in 18 minutes or less), be conservative in adding more broth/water (for asparagus, this is the time to add in the tops). You wish to reach your favorite cooking consistency. Rice should be done but still a bit crunchy in the inside (al dente). (Yet I even liked over cooked rice, I admit it…).
When the rice is done, add parmigiano, butter, pepper. Turn off the heat, mix them all in and enjoy.
You may want to have a sprinkle of parsley at the end.