Risotto Plus Variations (+ Make-Ahead Tip)

I took a picture showing all the possibilities for risotto–a perfect vehicle for mushrooms, peas, garlic, herbs, etc. After I took the picture, I made husband Tom and I a batch, adding all the pictured ingredients. He asked the question you want to hear: “What makes this so creamy?” (Since he knew it was “just rice”…) I could tell him about how it’s the special way you cook this special rice. So good!

Aborio Rice + Mushrooms, Peas, Herbs, Garlic

Risotto platedMy mom and aunt were such starch fiends… they waxed poetic about the virtues of risotto. Of course I had to make it and see what all the fuss was about. It’s true- it is a treat—an Italian-style comfort food.

Risotto is versatile (see variations at end of recipe). Add favorite ingredients: grilled mushrooms, garlic, browned sage butter, truffle oil, green peas, etc.

To make a super-quick batch of this, prep for the dish ahead of time. Partially cook the rice, stopping after the first 10-minute cooking time. Spread the undercooked rice out in a thinner layer in a glass pan (so it cools quickly and doesn’t overcook), storing it in the refrigerator until meal-time. The rice won’t get soggy this way, but can be reheated. The last batch of liquid can be added to it when reheating; stir it constantly, finishing the recipe as described below

Serves 6-8.


  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 small onion (about 1 c.), finely diced
  • 3/4 c. c. white wine
  • 3 c. Arborio rice
  • 6 c. water (or, part or all chicken stock, if desired)
  • 1 c. Parmesan + more for garnish
  • 1/4 c. cream
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley or other herbs
  • 2 tsp. salt, or to taste

Optional: grilled mushrooms, seafood, asparagus, peas, for garnish (see “variations”, below)

Bring to a boil and set aside: > 4 c. water (or chicken stock)

In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat, add oil and onion: > 1/4 c. olive oil > 1 c. chopped onion

Cook until onion is translucent. Add rice and stir to coat all the grains: > 3 c. Arborio rice

With pan on medium high, continue stirring the rice and onion a few minutes. Rice should not brown, but will become fragrant. Add wine and cook until almost completely evaporated: > 3/4 c. white wine

Add all but 2 c. of the hot liquid, stirring once and simmering for 10 minutes with lid on. Use: > 4 c. hot water/stock

Stir rice again, then cook another 10 minutes on low, until liquid is mostly absorbed.

To develop the starch in the rice, which gives this dish its creamy texture, add more hot liquid to the rice, stirring constantly, until liquid is absorbed. Use: > 2 c. hot stock/water

The rice is finished when it is creamy and al dente.

Remove from heat, then stir in: > 1 c. Parmesan cheese

Continue stirring until cheese has melted in, then add: > 1/4 c. butter > 1/4 c. cream > 2 tsp. salt (or to taste)

To serve risotto, garnish with chopped parsley, or see variations below.


Risotto w/Brown Rice: Add the brown rice to the sautéed onion and oil, add the wine and boil until evaporated. Then, after adding the 4 c. boiling stock (and/or water), let the brown rice simmer for 20 minutes on low. Resume recipe after it’s gotten a head-start on cooking.

Risotto w/Browned Sage Butter: Add 1/4 c. or so fresh sage (or other herbs) to a small iron skillet; turn pan on medium high heat. As herbs begin to get toasty, turn off heat and add 1/4 c. butter, letting the butter brown slightly; herbs will also get slightly crisp. Pour the browned herb butter over the risotto to serve,.

Risotto w/Peas: Green peas add color and complement the creamy texture of the risotto; just add thawed frozen peas after the last addition of liquid has been stirred in. (Then add parmesan, etc.)

Risotto with Mushrooms, Dried: Soak dried mushrooms for 30 minutes in boiling water to cover. Add the soaking liquid to the risotto, cooking it off (it’ll add more flavor to the dish). Slice the soaked mushrooms into strips and add to the rice with the last addition of liquid. (Then add parmesan, butter, cream.) Before serving, top the dish off with a drizzle of truffle oil, if available.

Risotto with Garlic: Add 1 TBS. fresh minced garlic to the rice with the last addition of liquid.


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