Risotto base

Risotto’s not hard, it just requires a little patience. I learned this from my buddy David the “one-dish-wonder” Kwonberg. He’s got the smartest dinner party philosophy around: By focusing on one dish he can actually interact with his dinner guests. Brilliant. I on the other hand am a master of talking to myself while vainly attempting to tame five competing dishes into a well-timed meal. Maybe that’s why David has more friends.

Now there’s one catch. If you’re only going to serve one dish, it damn well better be good. With this risotto base you’re off to a great start. The key is stir constantly and make sure that the stock is hot when you add it to the rice.

There are endless variations on this recipe. Sometimes I do it with pancetta and peas, sometimes with shrimp and corn, and sometimes with nothing but thyme.

The other thing David taught me is that if you go to the farmers market with an open mind you are likely to find all kinds of fresh ingredients that catch your eye. When he made this for my family he used fava beans, shrimp, corn and asparagus touched with fresh basil and lemon zest. It was scrumptious. The conversation was nice too. Serves 6 to 8.


  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 2Tbsp clarified butter
  • ½ small onion, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • asparagus, basil, corn, fava beans, zest of lemon, peas (fresh), shrimp, whatever jumps out at you — optional



  1. Combine the stock and white wine into a saucepan and bring to a low boil.
  2. Sauté the chopped onions with clarified butter over a medium low heat.
  3. Add the rice and toss well. The idea is to coat every surface of the rice kernels with the butter fat as this protects the rice from absorbing too much liquid and becoming soft.
  4. Reduce heat on rice to low.
  5. Add one ladle of warm stock mixture at a time to the rice and stir until liquid is absorbed enough that the bottom of the pan is dry when rice is pushed aside.
  6. Add another ladle of stock and stir until liquid is absorbed.
  7. Repeat until the rice has been cooked to the desired texture. If you like it al dente then you will use a little less stock if you like it fluffier you will use a little more.
  8. Serve immediately.

What you should know

Cook your extras separately. When David made his version he cooked the shrimp, fava beans, asparagus, and corn first, set them aside and mixed them in at the very end.

Risotto will become gummy if it sits around too long. That’s why only confident chefs offer it on their menu. The timing’s a bitch.

The stock needs to be hot for the rice to achieve the perfect consistency. Many a risotto has become goulash because the cook failed to heed this advice.

Re: Risotto base