Here in northern Italy, rice is king. Rice has been cultivated in the Po Valley since the Middle Ages. So it is no surprise that risotto is a staple dish in these parts. I have loved risotto for years and even before moving to Italy, risotto was a regular staple at our family dinners. Risotto is usually served as a “Primo” (first course) dish which is followed by a meat or poultry second course but it can also be served as a main dish. Since moving here, I have seen and tasted a myriad of risotto dishes, everything from lobster to blueberry risottos. The flavors and combination of ingredients seem endless.
For whatever reason, many people seem to think that making risotto is difficult, that it is a “chefy” dish that should be left to the professionals. I couldn’t disagree more. Once you get the hang of a basic risotto, you can start adding ingredients and play with flavors. This recipe is a basic “Risotto Bianco” (white risotto) with the only added ingredient being lemon. It’s simple and a favorite with my picky teenager.
LEMON RISOTTO RECIPE – SERVES 4
2 cups (500 g) of Italian rice (Arborio, Carnaroli, Roma, etc.)
1 cup (250 ml) of dry white wine (room temp)
2 large shallots or 1 medium white onion – minced
½ cup (125 g) of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
1 lemon zested
3 tablespoons (45 ml) of extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons (30 ml) of butter
4 cups (1 L) vegetable stock
Salt to taste
Bring your vegetable stock to a simmer. Heat up a frying pan, add oil and let it warm up. Then add shallots or onions and saute until they become soft, about 5 minutes.
At this point add the rice and mix until coated in olive oil. Stir frequently and cook the rice until it becomes translucent. Be careful not brown the rice! Add the wine and stir occasionally until wine is absorbed into the rice. Add a pinch of salt then it’s time to start adding the vegetable stock. Add one ladle full at a time and stir until the stock is absorbed into the rice. Keep repeating until the rice is al dente, which means firm but chewy, not mushy.
Once you’re happy with the consistency, add butter, cheese, and lemon zest and stir. Taste rice and adjust salt level if needed. Note that if it lacks flavor, it’s because it lacks salt. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmigiano or Grana Padano on top. Buon appetito!
- This risotto has a light lemon flavor. If you prefer a stronger lemon taste you can add the lemon juice of your zested lemon at the end when you add the cheese, butter and lemon zest.
- Risotto can be dry or soupy. As I’ve learned here in Italy, it’s all a matter of personal preference. If you prefer a more soupy risotto, just add more stock.
- In this recipe I used a dry white Soave wine.