The Perfect Risotto Recipe {Secrets, Tips, & Tricks}

Make perfect risotto every time with the tips and tricks that most recipes leave out. This is a risotto fundamentals post that will teach you how to make a traditional Italian parmesan risotto recipe that rivals any restaurant by helping you understand what each step in the cooking of risotto accomplishes.

A blue plate full of finished, creamy, perfect risotto.

Make this delicious parmesan risotto, a traditional Italian rice dish that the whole family (or dinner guests on special occasions) will love. I use traditional methods and ingredients.

This is a long post. But don’t worry, I’ve skipped out on any childhood memories of eating risotto seaside on the Adriatic.

What is the secret to a good risotto? High-quality ingredients and specific but simple cooking techniques give spectacular results to what is basically “just” a rice dish.

Specifically: a flavorful (preferably homemade) meat/bone stock, the right risotto rice variety, agitating the risotto in the right amount, starting off in a cold cooking vessel, and beating in cold butter as well as resting the finished dish.

Risotto is the first course in Italian dinners and it is traditionally served before the main course, sometimes in place of soup.

If you love this recipe, try my pumpkin risotto with mushrooms.

Let’s get into the specifics.

A blue plate full of finished, creamy, perfect risotto.

Elements Of A Perfect Risotto

This easy risotto recipe has a perfectly creamy consistency. It is my best risotto recipe. I prefer to use a Dutch oven or large skillet and do not like the Instant Pot versions I have tried as much.

The Stock

Different varieties of meat stock/bone broth can be used but chicken stock is the most common. Vegetable and seafood stock is also used depending on the risotto recipe, but I have actually grown to personally prefer the rich flavor of beef bone stock above all when making my own basic risotto.

You can use chicken or beef but you cannot get away with an inferior stock as it is a major component of the perfect risotto.

This means homemade or purchased from a good source.

Heat it up and have the hot broth ready at the stove when you begin.

Have Everything Ready At The Stove

The risotto will not wait for you. So measure out your rice and wine. Heat your stock. Finely dice your onions. Microplane your Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cut up your butter into cubes.

Keep everything by your stove except the butter and cheese. They must be kept in the fridge — I’ll explain why further down.

Close up of carnaroli risotto rice in a brown paper sack.

Use High-Quality Risotto Rice

Use Italian short-grain rice varieties and remember never to rinse risotto rice. You need the starch to make the dish creamy. You cannot use other rice varieties for true authenticity. You need a starchy variety of short-grain rice.

Arborio

My second favorite risotto rice and the most common of the varieties. Chances are, you will have arborio rice in your local grocery store no matter where you live. It is not as starchy as other varieties and does not absorb liquid as readily.

Carnaroli

My favorite rice for risotto and the preferred variety across most of Italy. Carnaroli rice makes for the best, the creamiest, the most perfect risotto. It is also harder to overcook this more forgiving variety. It has just enough starch for a creamy risotto recipe like this one.

Vialone Nano

The preferred risotto rice in the Veneto region of Italy; this is a great variety. In my experience, it is slightly less forgiving and starchy than carnaroli. It makes for a lovely, creamy risotto. The rice grains cook up much plumper than the other varieties.

Baldo

Grown in the Piedmonte in Italy, Baldo is not as starchy as other varieties and thus produces a less creamy risotto where the grains hold more of their structure. I have read that it does not scorch as readily if toasted, but I have never had a problem with scorched rice so I’m not sure about that benefit.

Butter & Olive Oil

I use butter and extra virgin olive oil to start the risotto, and I always finish with only butter.

I never finish a risotto with olive oil after it has cooked. It just becomes greasy and unpleasant and ruins any chance for the creaminess I want in the perfect risotto.

Start Your Risotto in a Cold Sauté Pan or French/Dutch Oven

Why? This is a crucial first step to a creamy perfect risotto. I do not know the science behind this. Perhaps it has something to do with it being easier to not accidentally crisp or brown the onions as you would if adding them to a pan of hot oil/butter.

You do not want crispy or browned onions. You want them to saute onions and emulsify and completely disappear into the risotto. It happens almost like magic right toward the end, usually just after you’ve decided they won’t and that you’ve done something wrong.

Toast Your Risotto Rice Grains

As the rice toasts, the developing flavors from the butter/oil/onion permeate the rice grains, making this an essential step.

White Wine

Wine makes a big difference to the final taste.

I do not like red wine in my risotto, only white, but you can experiment.

Rest & Finish The Risotto With Cold Butter & Parmigiano-Reggiano

This is the final trick for the creamiest risotto possible.

Ingredients

These are the basic ingredients. And a basic risotto is incredibly delicious. Feel free to add things like mushrooms or meats, etc. My favorite risotto is a mushroom risotto recipe — the basic risotto recipe with rich beef stock and wild porcini mushrooms.

An overhead shot showing all of the ingredients needed to make the perfect risotto.
  • Short-grain Italian risotto rice | Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, or Arborio (in order of my personal preference)
  • Onion | I prefer simple yellow onions, finely diced.
  • Stock | Homemade chicken or beef stock/bone broth is my preference. Try my chicken feet bone broth. High-quality store-bought if you don’t have homemade.
  • White wine | If you don’t have wine, try a small squeeze of something acidic like lemon juice.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano | I’ve never tried to substitute, but let me know if you do.
  • Butter | Essential to this dish in my opinion.
  • Olive oil | Any olive oil will suffice, I’ve tried lighter and fruitier and more bitter types and like them both.
  • Sea salt & black pepper to taste

See the recipe card at the end for quantities.

Instructions

The cooking process takes little time for this creamy parmesan risotto.

Risotto ingredients, fully prepped and ready for cooking.

Step 1: Get everything ready: finely chop your onion. It should be no bigger than the picture above. I actually prefer a white or yellow onion, but red will do.

Measure out your risotto, measure out your wine. Microplane your cheese. Chop up your butter into small 1/2-inch cubes.

Place your cheese and about 2 tablespoons worth of butter back into the refrigerator for the end.

A cold enamelled French oven with butter, onion, and olive oil.

Step 2: Bring everything you will be using to the stove area, where it is easy to access.

In a pot, heat your bone broth/stock. I like getting mine up to the boiling point and immediately turning the heat off. It is important that the broth is hot but not boiling. You may need to simmer it throughout the process.

Diced onion being stirred in butter and olive oil.

Step 3: Add the onion, butter, and olive oil into a heavy-bottomed French Oven/Dutch Oven or a large enough (10 inches+) pan that has not been preheated. Turn the heat up to medium.

Stir the onions until they soften up and become translucent but never brown. Cook them slowly, stirring, turning the heat down to low if necessary.

You do not want crisped or browned onions.

Toasting the rice grains.

Step 4: Add the rice and keep the heat low to medium. Add a small pinch of sea salt. Slowly stir the rice grains around.

You will eventually hear popping and clicking sounds and the grains will begin to turn a very pale shade of gold.

Touch the grains — are they hot to the touch?

Time for the next step.

White wine being poured into risotto rice grains.

Step 5: Pour in the white wine and turn up the heat to med/high. Cook off practically all of the wine and just as it cooks off and it looks like the rice will have absorbed all of it — immediately ladle in enough of the hot stock to cover the grains completely.

Now, set a timer for 18 minutes.

Stock being added to risotto.

Step 6: Fiddle with your heat settings so that your risotto is just simmering gently, not boiling or just sitting there. You should see gentle movement in the stock.
Stay close by and stir the rice gently to keep it from sticking. You do not need to be stirring continuously for the entire 18 minutes.

(A wooden spoon or silicone spatula is best.)

Add more broth as it disappears into your rice. Wait until it is almost practically all gone before adding another ladle of broth.

Stock being added to risotto.

Step 7: Be patient. It will require all 18 minutes to cook the risotto. If it stops absorbing liquid well before time is up, you have kept the heat too high.

The center of the grains will be unpleasantly starchy. If it is not ready yet, you have kept it too low. It will become mushy by the time it finally finishes.

Remember to keep the stock and rice simmering and make sure your stock is hot to begin with!

Stirring risotto with a wooden spoon, it is nearly getting ready here.

Step 8: At the 18-minute mark, taste your risotto — it should be al dente, tender and creamy but not mushy; there will be a bit of resistance at the center but no starchy mealiness at all.

Adding cheese to the risotto.

Step 9: Remove the risotto from the heat, cover it, and allow it to rest for 4 minutes.

Uncover and immediately beat in the cold butter and Parmesan from the refrigerator. Taste for salt, add more if necessary, and then add freshly ground black pepper.

A wooden spoon full of risotto.

Step 10: Serve on warm plates with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan. You can also add some lemon zest or a squeeze of lemon juice or garnish with green onions.

A blue plate full of finished, creamy, perfect risotto. A sideways picture with a spoon inside the dish.

Substitutions & Variations

Risotto is so much fun to experiment with.

You can swap out chicken stock with beef stock.

You can use seafood stock and make a seafood risotto with shrimp, crab, or langostino.

Use squid ink and make a dark black and very delicious seafood risotto.

Lobster meat — if you can get some! A lobster risotto is an incredible and creamy dish.

And try my pumpkin and mushroom risotto.

Storage

Risotto is best consumed within the first two days of making it, although it will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days if stored in an airtight container. Risotto does not freeze well, but if you must, freeze for up to three months and allow it to slowly thaw in the refrigerator before letting it get to room temperature before reheating on the stove.

FAQ

Can you reheat risotto?

You can reheat risotto easily and it still tastes delicious the next day. Risotto will keep for up to five days in the refrigerator although you can also use the leftover risotto to make delicious Arancini balls. To reheat, place a small amount of water or bone broth into a pot or pan on medium heat — just enough to barely cover the surface. Add the risotto and stir gently until it gets hot but doesn’t boil.

What is the best white wine for risotto?

I have never used a white wine I didn’t like in my risotto. Since I mostly drink red wine and only keep white Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough (Australia) around, that is what I always use. Use whichever white wine you have on hand to make your risotto as long as it’s not something super sweet like ice wine.

Can you freeze risotto?

You can freeze risotto for up to three months but the texture will be changed. To reheat, let it thaw completely in the refrigerator before following the same directions for reheating next-day risotto.

Can you make risotto with jasmine rice?

You can make a delicious rice dish with jasmine rice and risotto ingredients following this recipe, but it will not be traditional or authentic-tasting Italian risotto.

Can you use shallots instead of onion?

I tried using shallots once but the risotto took on a sickly sweet flavor I didn’t like. I do not recommend it. I prefer simple yellow onions but white will suffice and red will do in a pinch.

Related Recipes

A blue plate full of finished, creamy, perfect risotto. There is a spoon in it.

The Perfect Risotto Recipe {Secrets, Tips, & Tricks}

Make perfect risotto every time with the tips and tricks that most recipes leave out.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: first course, mediterranean
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 698kcal
Author: Jana Dziak

Equipment

  • Microplane Grater (Best for grating Parmesan cheese and other uses)
  • Heavy Bottomed French Oven or Other Suitable Cooking Pot

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups of short-grain Italian risotto rice like Carnaroli Vialone Nano, or Arborio (in order of my personal preference)
  • 1 large onion approximately 400 grams, finely chopped
  • 6 cups of homemade chicken or beef stock you will not use all of it but it is best to have extra just in case
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 cup microplaned Parmigiano-Reggiano plus more for serving (kept cold in fridge)
  • 4 tablespoons butter for the start
  • 2 tablespoons butter for the very end, kept cold in fridge
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt & black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Get everything ready and then bring it to your stove area for easy access: finely chop your onion, measure out your risotto, measure out your wine. Microplane your cheese. Chop up your butter into small ½ inch cubes. Place your cheese and about 2 tablespoons worth of butter back into the refrigerator for the end.
  • In a pot, heat up your bone broth/stock. I like to get mine up to the boiling point, and then immediately turn the heat off. It is important that the broth is hot but not boiling when you start adding it to the risotto rice.
  • Add the onion, butter and olive oil into a heavy-bottomed French Oven/Dutch Oven or a large enough (10 inches+) pan that has not been preheated. Turn the heat up to medium.
  • Stir the onions until they soften up and become translucent but never brown. Cook them slowly, stirring, turning the heat down to low if necessary.
  • Add the rice and keep the heat low to medium. Add a small pinch of sea salt. Slowly stir the rice grains around. You will eventually hear popping and clicking sounds and the grains will begin to turn a very pale shade of gold.
  • Pour in the white wine and turn up the heat to med/high. Cook off practically all of the wine and just as it cooks off and it looks like the rice will have absorbed all of it — immediately ladle in enough of the hot stock to cover the grains completely.
  • Now, set a timer for 18 minutes (or just make note of the time.)
  • Fiddle with your heat settings so that your risotto is just simmering gently, not boiling or just sitting there. You should see gentle movement in the stock.Stay close by and stir the rice gently to keep it from sticking. You do not need to be stirring continuously for the entire 18-minutes.
  • Add more broth as it disappears into your rice. Wait until it is almost practically all gone before adding another ladle of broth.
  • Be patient. It will require all 18 minutes to cook the risotto. If it stops absorbing liquid well before time is up, you have kept the heat too high. The center of the grains will be unpleasantly starchy. If it is not ready yet, you have kept it too low. It will become mushy by the time it finally finishes. Remember to keep the stock and rice simmering and make sure your stock is hot to begin with!
  • At the 18-minute mark, taste your risotto — it should be al dente, tender and creamy but not mushy, there will be a bit of resistance at the center but no starchy mealiness at all.
  • Remove the risotto from the heat, cover it, and allow it to rest for 4 minutes. Uncover and immediately beat in the cold butter and Parmesan from the refrigerator. Taste for salt, add more if necessary, and then add freshly ground black pepper.
  • Serve immidietly.

Notes

Important: Once the first ladle of chicken stock hits the pan, set your timer to 18 minutes. Do not overcook the risotto, there is a fine line between creamy and mushy.
You can start the risotto in all-butter, all-olive oil, or a mixture of both — just make sure to finish off with butter, and not oil.
Risotto is best consumed within the first two days of making it, although it will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days easily stored in an airtight container. Risotto does not freeze well, but if you must, freeze for up to three months and allow it to slowly thaw in the refrigerator before then letting it get to room temperature before reheating.
To reheat, place a small amount of water or bone broth into a pot or pan on medium heat — just enough to barely cover the surface. Add the risotto and stir gently until it gets hot but doesn’t boil.
Have Everything Ready At The Stove
The risotto will not wait for you. So measure out your rice and wine. Heat up your stock. Finely dice your onions. Microplane your Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cut up your butter into cubes.
Keep everything by your stove except the butter and cheese. They need to be kept in the fridge

Nutrition

Calories: 698kcal | Carbohydrates: 76g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 1055mg | Potassium: 529mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 732IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 325mg | Iron: 4mg
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27 Comments

  1. Cooking this as I type and keen to see if it is better than how I currently make it. If you wanted to add more or less rice to this recipe would you change the 18 minutes accordingly?

    1. In my personal experience, adding more rice changes the dish in a way that isn’t as good. I don’t know why. Granted, I haven’t tried too many times to know for sure so that may be all on me needing to experiment more.

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever read so many “must not” and other statements talking down to people who are just trying to do with what they have

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  5. 5 stars
    We felt compelled to get answers to these irksome questions, so we consulted a group of chefs who make risotto on a regular basis and we happily discovered that no, risotto isn’t in fact an impossible dish to prepare well. However, a great risotto does require some know-how and practice, and our chef sources offered up 5 tips for those brave enough to give this notorious meal the old college (or, rather, culinary-school) try.

    1. You can have issues getting the rice to toast and the onions to properly emulsify. It won’t ruin the dish or anything that dramatic, so if all you have is a non-stick deep-sided pan or pot — go for it. I would also pay closer attention to the cooking temperature and time, moreso than if you used stainless steel.

  6. 5 stars
    I love risotto, but have not perfected it yet. thanks for all of these helpful tips!

  7. 5 stars
    So many great tips here! I will be using your recipe to make risotto for sure next time. Just wondering, have you tried with short grain brown rice? That’s what I have at home, will they taste ok?

  8. 5 stars
    I have messed up risotto quite a few times and it only turns out right by accident for me it seems. I am going to try this way next time and I’m sure I will get better more consistent results. Thanks 🙂

  9. 5 stars
    This is such a great resource and it definitely looks perfect, so delectable and creamy!

  10. 5 stars
    Some great tips – thank you! Risotto is a dish that can easily go wrong . Perfect comfort food!

  11. 5 stars
    Whoa, this is so thorough! Thanks so much for walking us through this process. And I agree – I’m not big on grains but I’ll make an exception for good risotto!

  12. 5 stars
    Comfort food indeed, SO delish! The ultra creamy texture and the flavors, swoon!

  13. Wow- so many great hints and tips. I’m not sure why but risotto has always intimidated me- armed with this knowledge I’m going to have a better go. Thank you

  14. 5 stars
    I’m not a fan of risotto personally, but I’m beginning to suspect that’s because I haven’t tasted a high-quality enough preparation of it. One of these days when I’m in a (admittedly rare) cooking mood, I may just give this recipe a try 🙂

  15. Wow these tips are incredible, certainly going to try these new varieties of rice! Risotto feels like such a daunting and scary recipe, but I feel ready to conquer it with your advice! Thank you!

  16. 5 stars
    Oh my gosh! I love risotto! This recipe looks amazing and soooo creamy! Yum!

  17. 5 stars
    Loved reading all your tips and insights! I am def not a master at risotto, so I can’t wait to give this a go. Thank you!

  18. Perfect risotto is a wonderful accomplishment in my book. My family is from Bellosguardo, Italy– I am the first generation here in America so I enjoy seeing recipes from our culture. I am very excited to try your version! Have a wonderful day.