Risotto is like a clingy baby. And if you give it all of your patient attention, it will turn into a puddle of love. This simple, pure, unadulterated version stands up on its own, but it also makes an excellent canvas for seasonal ingredients—find out more about those toppings below. This is part of BA’s Best, a collection of our essential recipes.
1 Tbsp. kosher salt, plus more
6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ large white onion, finely chopped (about 1½ cups)
2 cups carnaroli or Japanese sushi rice
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1¾ cups finely grated Parmesan, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine 1 Tbsp. salt and 10 cups water in a medium stockpot. Bring to a very bare simmer over medium heat.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium. Cook onion and a pinch of salt, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and starting to soften, 6–8 minutes. Add ½ cup water and cook, stirring often, until water evaporates and onion is sizzling in oil and completely tender, about 5 minutes. (Adding the water allows the onion to cook gently and thoroughly without taking on any color.) Taste onion; if it’s still firm at all, add another splash of water and continue cooking until meltingly soft.
Add rice and stir well to coat with oil. Cook, stirring constantly, until grains of rice are translucent around the edges and they make a glassy clattering sound when they hit the sides and bottom of pot, about 5 minutes. Coating the grains with oil before adding any liquid helps the rice cook evenly so that the outside does not become mushy before the center is tender. Add wine and another pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until wine is completely evaporated, about 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium, then add hot salted water to rice in ¾-cup increments, stirring constantly and allowing liquid to absorb fully before adding more, until rice is al dente and surrounded by fluid, not-too-thick creamy suspension, 25–30 minutes. It should take 2–3 minutes for each addition to be absorbed; if things are moving faster than this, reduce heat to medium-low. Gradual absorption and constant agitation are key to encouraging the starches to release from the risotto, creating its trademark creamy consistency. You may not need all of the hot water, but err on the side of soup rather than sludge. The finished texture should be more of a liquid than a solid. Start checking the rice after about 15 minutes; the grains should be tender but not mushy, with a slightly firm center that doesn’t leave a chalky or bitty residue between your teeth after tasting. Do not overcook!
Remove pot from heat, add butter, and stir until melted. Gradually add 1¼ cups Parmesan, stirring until cheese is melted and liquid surrounding risotto is creamy but very fluid. Stir in more hot salted water if needed to achieve the right consistency. Taste and season with salt.
Divide risotto among warm bowls. Top each with a grind of pepper. Serve with remaining ½ cup Parmesan alongside for passing.
BA’s Best Risotto Parmigiano is good enough to serve on its own, but it’s also an excellent canvas for a whole host of toppings. Here are a few options we love, for whatever season you’re in.
Spring: Buttered Sugar Snap Peas with Mint Heat 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium until foaming, about 1 minute. Add finely chopped white and light green parts of 5 scallions, season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until scallions are bright green and aromatic, 1–2 minutes. Add 1 lb. sugar snap peas (trimmed, cut in half lengthwise), season again, and cook, tossing occasionally, until crisp-tender, 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in ½ cup sliced mint leaves. Spoon peas and any pan juices onto BA’s Best Risotto.
Summer: Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce Heat 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter and 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium until butter is foaming. Add 4 crushed garlic cloves, season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is aromatic and starting to brown, 1–2 minutes. Add 2 pints cherry tomatoes and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, tossing frequently and pressing down on tomatoes with a wooden spoon to encourage skins to split, about 5 minutes. Add ½ tsp. red pepper flakes and toss to combine. Taste and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, if needed. Spoon tomatoes and pan sauce onto BA’s Best Risotto. Drizzle with oil.
Fall: Browned Mushrooms with Thyme Heat ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Add 1 lb. mushrooms (such as shiitake, crimini, or maitake, trimmed, caps torn into 2" pieces) and cook, tossing occasionally, until they begin to soften and release some liquid, 3–4 minutes. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook, tossing occasionally, until deeply browned and tender, 8–10 minutes. Add 5 crushed garlic cloves, 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, and 4–5 sprigs thyme and cook, tossing occasionally, until garlic softens and butter is golden brown, about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and add 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice. Toss to coat, scraping up any browned bits from surface of pan. Pluck out thyme sprigs. Spoon mushroom mixture onto BA’s Best Risotto.
Winter: Lemon and Chives Stir finely grated zest of 2 lemons, ½ cup thinly sliced chives, and 5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil in a small bowl; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. As soon as BA’s Best Risotto is done, stir in 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice. Spoon lemon-chive mixture onto risotto.
Recipe by Carla Lalli MusicReviews SectionWhere is the amount of water listed?AnonymousTennessee 07/31/20Impeccable. To the people saying it should 'obviously' be with stock; try both. I don't know if you think that Carla, a chef with an award winning book, didn't consider the use of stock but this is without a doubt superior. Perhaps it is the salt content or something but with stock the texture is off, it is far too rich to make it through a portion and it hardly even tastes of your intended stock. Follow the recipe to the letter (particularly the onions,) be attentive and it will come out perfect.I've done this about 20 times now without fault, except for the one time I used stock, thinking I knew better.Have made this a dozen times as per the recipe and it's fantastic, 10/10.If you follow the onion-steps correctly and use enough parm then there is no lack of flavour. I imagine they suggest salted water because the large majority of us will be using sub-standard stock cubes, not a high quality, home made stock.bvopzeelandNew Zealand05/27/20I've made risotto many times in restaurants and at home and never used salted water but I imagine this is to make it vegetarian friendly but why not use veggie stock then? Maybe this is to get a more neutral flavor and not overpower other flavors. I don't know.I have plenty of homemade stock in the freezer I'll be using instead of salted waterAnd I've always used Arborio rice but we currently have none and plenty of Japanese sushi rice so I will be using that.AnonymousCalifornia05/15/20Not gonna lie - I was super skeptical of using salted water instead of stock. But, I am so glad I stuck with this recipe because it absolutely works, and I think it's absolutely better than the stock versions I have made! I will definitely keep using this recipe as a base with different mix-ins. Perfect consistency - creamy with slightly firm rice. Made it with the cherry tomato topping, and will use the leftovers as a base with the snap pea topping over the weekend.erikaasgChicago, IL04/24/20I OBVIOUSLY used chicken stock instead of water, I ain't no amateur. Besides that, there was no way this recipe could fail.Honestly I haven’t cooked the recipe, but have made plenty risotto. Method looks good but I can’t believe “BA’s best risotto recipe” uses salted water and not stock. If this were Walmart magazine I wouldn’t be so surprised but it’s BA. Disappointing.Yum! This was so good! Didn't have sushi rice, just used regular white rice. Somehow missed the part about cooking the onion for 6-8 minutes *before* adding water, but I just ended up cooking it a little longer and adding a little more water until the onions were "meltingly soft." So glad for the descriptions about how to recognize when to proceed to the next step. This was a hit in my household, thanks for making me feel kinda gourmet!sasha kembleEdmonds, WA 04/02/20Just tried the recipe out and the risotto turned out amazing. It was very warm and comforting, and my whole family enjoyed eating it!FrappelatteIllinois04/01/20This risotto is the creamiest! I made it with the mushrooms, and everything was perfect. I would not change anything about this recipe! My family (who aren't usually fans of risotto) loved it and asked for more.MariekeHCMontréal01/24/20I made for no reason on a random afternoon and gave everyone in my family little sampler bowls, just to see if it still felt fancy in without the context of dinner. My family said it was fantastic and "tasted like something from a restaurant," so it passed the test. (PS I used the lemon topping with basil instead of chives. V nice."Just made this in "practice" for Christmas dinner when we will be entertaining a vegetarian. I wanted something special and this fits the order!! The water eliminates chicken broth and the first time I have seen risotto made this way. It is delicious and perfect. I will add the mushrooms/thyme at dinner time!Saba, Netherlands Caribbean12/18/[email protected] just use more stock or even water. It will still taste great.lwyckoff3249Corrales, NM11/08/19First time making risotto, followed this basically to the letter and it is now no longer an eat out dish. I used a 4.5 quart Dutch oven and grana Padana and aborio rice.Laura WpgWinnipeg10/20/19I would like to make this with my students but we are not allowed to use wine in our classroom. Do you have a substitute for wine? Thank you!Amazing! Made this tonight for dinner and it was perfect. Substituted half of the parmesan for pecorino and it was delicious. Topped with both swiss and porcini mushrooms, bacon, and spinach. Definitely making againAnonymousAustralia10/16/19First time risotto maker - and this came out fantastic. I feel like a proAnonymousConnecticut08/11/19Can verify, best risotto (to me!). This was my first attempt at risotto. My first mistake was making this on a Monday and not getting to eat it until 10pm, but it was WELL worth it! Now that I know the process, I'm saving this for days with more time to cook and enjoy it. If you follow the instructions to a T, nothing should go wrong! I paired this with a sauteed mushroom mixture and some Asian ribs that I had leftover from previous night's dinner and OMG. It was amazing. So creamy and delicious. Can't wait to make it again!AnonymousWilmington, DE07/03/19This was delicious! I used chicken stock instead of water and served with seared scallops. Was a hit!NymakeastNew York 04/04/19When I was in Italy I watched an Italian friend make risotto. Much to my initial dismay she did not add the liquid a bit at a time but dumped the whole amount at one shot. I asked why and she said it works just as well and saves a lot of work. ....she was right!AnonymousMontreal04/03/19What's the missing word in the fourth phrase of the second paragraph? "until rice is and surrounded by fluid"I made this with the mushrooms. Unbelievably great! The method for the risotto is spot on. Without the mushrooms or something topping it, I think it would be bland. I miss the richness of chicken stock.AnonymousCalifornia 04/02/19
Watch the video: Chris Makes BAs Best Lasagna. From the Test Kitchen. Bon Appétit