Pictured: Lobster Risotto recipe from CHOW
In this winter that seems to have brought a new blast of cold or precipitation with each week (at least here on the East Coast), reaching for cozy, familiar comforts has been a necessity for coping. I've personally found myself grabbing for my most well-worn sweaters, revisiting favorite books, and, of course, making those timeless recipes that come almost intuitively to me. Risotto has been chief among them.
The beautiful thing about risotto is that it welcomes practically any add-ins and toppings you can dream of, so long as you stick faithfully to its tried and true method. First, a knob of butter or glug of oil, followed by the addition of the rice, swished around in the pan until glossy and lightly toasted. Then, the critical part: tipping in a warm broth in small doses, the grains of rice swelling and puffing with each addition. Finally, after a length of steady stirring, you've got your finished dish, teeming with starches that swaddle everything in creamy richness.
So whether you’re a novice or know the motions by heart, now's the time to hone your risotto technique. Here are 11 prime examples to guide the way, showing all that a simple bowl of rice can be.
1. Basic Risotto
“Basic” isn’t an insult here. It means that this recipe can open its arms to any ingredient combinations that you can think of—just let your imagination run wild. Get our Basic Risotto recipe.
2. Risotto alla Milanese
The Venetians or Piemontese might disagree, but Milan is the place most famed for its risotto. The city’s take on the dish is colored with saffron, for a stunning golden hue that is nothing short of regal. Get the recipe here.
3. Risi e Bisi
If Venice did want to claim its stake in the rice game, though, it would be with risi e bisi, a loose, relaxed dish that is best in the spring, when peas are at their sweetest peak. Get the recipe here.
4. Clam Risotto with Bacon and Chives
Risotto and chowder may come from two different worlds, but in the end, they both carry the same end goal of providing creamy comforts. So it's only natural that risotto would play well with some of chowder's favorite ingredients, embracing clams, bacon, and chive like family. Get the recipe here.
5. Charred Corn Risotto
It may be far off from peak corn season right now, but I can’t get this recipe out of my head. The corn-cob-flavored broth used here imbues the grains with subtle sweetness, while lightly charred kernels punctuate each bite with smoke. Get the recipe here.
6. Roasted Cauliflower Risotto
Cauliflower, roasted until its inner flavors sing, is one of those winter vegetables that instantly brightens up a cold day. Naturally, it’s an ideal companion for risotto, providing textural contrast here along with chickpeas and spinach. Get the recipe here.
7. Butternut Squash Risotto with Smoked Bacon and Crispy Fried Sage
As they say, bacon makes everything better. So does butternut squash. Put the two together in a risotto and you’ve got a dish that could win any popularity contest, be a shoo-in for best in show, and achieve just about anything short of peace on earth. Get the recipe here.
8. Spring Vegetable Risotto with Poached Eggs
Recipes like these make me mark my calendar for opening day at my farmers' market. C’mon spring—fava and leek season can’t get here fast enough! Get the recipe here.
9. Farro Risotto with Prosciutto, Parmesan, and Brussels Sprouts
Yes, rice may be traditional, but risotto is all about technique. This means that you can give the same steps a whirl on farro and other grains, bringing out their natural starch and savoriness. Get the recipe here.
10. Mushroom and Barley Risotto
The same goes for barley, which makes for a risotto that's pleasantly chewy, especially when accented by the earthy punch of mushrooms. Get the recipe here.
11. Tomato-Basil Arancini
Got leftovers? Risotto reheated the next day can be a bit gluey and sad. But not to fear! Shape it into arancini, and your deep-fryer will bring it back to life. Get our Tomato-Basil Arancini recipe.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.