I asked Mario, owner & chef at one of my favorite Lake Como restaurants, for some tips on risotto. These are some of the things he does at Trattoria del Glicine which will take your risotto making to another level:
1.) Start with the correct rice. Most restaurants on the lake use carnaroli rice, which is delicious and forgiving. Valone nano is another great choice.
2.) Take a little more time with your onion & rice in the pan. Let them become toasty, with little brown bits. This carmelization is where the flavor is.
3.) Also take a little more time when you add 1/2 a cup of dry white wine and let the rice become dry before moving on to the broth. Let the wine absorb well into the rice grains.
4.) Most people overcook Risotto. It should be no more than 14 minutes once you start the broth phase. Mario recommends 12 minutes. I'm adding on a couple of minutes because I know how hard it is to gauge and it is difficult to trust that it is done. Al dente is what you want. Remember it continues to cook once taken off the heat.
Below is my recipe for Asparagus Risotto. You can substitute prosecco or champagne for the white wine. On New Year's Eve I usually make this base recipe with prosecco, without the asparagus, of course, as it is not in season. If you want it to taste really good, say for a dinner party, add a couple more tablespoons of butter once you turn off the heat. I won't tell anyone.
RECIPE: ASPARAGUS RISOTTO SERVES: 4 as a main, 6 as a side
5 1/2 cups Chicken Broth
2 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Small Onion, chopped finely
1 3/4 Cups Carnaroli Rice
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
Asparagus, Parboiled & cut into 1/2" pieces (upper part of stem and spears)
5 Tbsp of Parmesan Cheese, Freshly Grated (to taste)
Pepper, Freshly Grated
Salt, if needed
Heat the broth to a simmer in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, Dutch oven or frying pan with high sides. Add the onion to the butter & oil first, stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook until it is translucent and softened. Next, add in the rice. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring until some of the grains are toasted. Add your wine and stir until it is absorbed very well.
Now begin the broth. Set your timer for 14 minutes and add a cup of the broth and stir while letting it absorb by the rice. Continue adding broth once the previous amount has dried up, about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup at a time. About half way through this cooking time, you can add in most of the asparagus. Save some spears for garnishing the finished risotto at the end.
After about 14 minutes of the rice absorbing the broth, take the pan off the heat and gently stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Season with pepper. Depending on the saltiness of your broth and butter and how much parmesan you sprinkle on top of each plated dish, you may not need salt at all. Distribute the risotto into plates using the reserved spears for garnish on top. Sprinkle more parmesan cheese on top as well.