Ah risotto. Comfort food of kings but so easy to get it wrong. Well here's how to get it right, every time.

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Image: Stop screwing it up: risotto

Photo: Seven

Rice. Arborio rice to be exact. That fickle grain treads such a fine line between utter pleasure and epicurean heartbreak. Here's how to ensure that lusted after midweek risotto is a bowl of creamy wonder, every time. 

Here's your risotto guide for life. 


Getting it right

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Must-have kit: a heavy-based pan


To serve 4



  • 1 tbsp olive oil or 30 g unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped `
  • 300g risotto rice such as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
  • 1 litre hot stock
  • 250ml white wine
  • Grated parmesan, to serve


1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Stir in the rice and mix until coated all over with the oil (a couple of minutes should do it). Neither the butter nor the onions should brown.


2. Add the wine (the grains must be heated through before you do this - it should sizzle) and keep stirring until it has all disappeared.


3. Add the stock, a ladleful at a time and cook over a medium heat. Keep stirring until the stock is absorbed, then repeat until all the stock has been used.


4. Add any final ingredients such as butter and cheese.


5. Leave to sit for a few minutes and stir through some fresh herbs. 


Stupid habits that don’t help

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  • Not stirring it enough – you need to keep stirring so that the starch will ooze out of the rice and give the risotto its creamy texture. Also, you don’t want it to stick to the bottom and burn. No one wants to clear that up.
  • Adding too much stock – if you dump in all the stock at once, you’re really just boiling rice. Slowly does it is the moral of the story.
  • Cooking until it’s mush – just like pasta, it should be al dente, i.e. you want a little bit of bite to it. If you can mold it into a shape, it has gone too far.
  • Using a too low heat – yes, slow is the name of the game here but if the heat is too low, it will never cook. You’re looking for a medium simmer throughout.
  • Using cold stock – adding chilly stock to a hot pan will cool everything down and mess with the cooking process. Keep the stock at a simmer in a small pan so everything stays hot and cooks evenly.
  • Using too big a pot – if your rice is cooking in a thin layer, then your pan is too wide. The rice grains need to be able to bump, grind and get up close and personal with each other to generate starch. This will also create hot and cold spots around your pan, so choose one that fits

Additional flourishes

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Once you’ve mastered the basics, take your risotto to the next level.


  • Add some fresh or frozen peas and chopped mint, then top with cooked scallops.
  • Take leftover risotto and shape into balls. Dip them in flour, then egg (beaten) and coat with breadcumbs. Chill for 30 minutes. Heat oil in a large deep saucepan and deep-fry the risotto balls.
  • Stir in some mascarpone at the end to make it extra creamy.
  • Yes, you can bake a risotto. After step 2 (above), add the stock, give it a quick stir, cover and pop in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes until tender. Serve sprinkled with parmesan.

What’s your top tip for cooking risotto? Let us know in the comments box below …