If you’re like me, at some point, you may have thought or assumed that risotto contained milk, cheese, or some other form of dairy to give it its creamy consistency. While some cooks add dairy to make risotto extra creamy, it is a naturally plant-based and wonderfully decadent dish.
I use risotto as an opportunity to fulfill a craving for comfort food and to eat vegetables that must be cooked to be palatable, such as sweet potatoes. When Travis and I whip up a batch, it almost always contains some form of potato or other root vegetable, allowing us to eat the majority of our other vegetables raw. If you’re not in the mood for veggies (hopefully because you’ve been chowing them all day!), just make it plain, seasoned to taste.
Since it doesn’t, in fact, contain dairy, you should know that risotto achieves its creamy consistency through a slow and steady cooking process that involves an abundance of liquid and regular stirring. Risotto is NOT a last-minute go-to dish, nor is it for light snacking; this, is a square meal that will fill you up before you get to the bottom of your bowl.
Risotto is prepared with an Italian short-grain rice called Arborio. Arborio rice is high in protein, packed with vitamins and minerals, easy to digest, and can even help to fend off disease and maintain regular bodily functions. Plus, when slowly simmered in white wine, vegetable stock, sweet onions, and fresh herbs, it is simply delicious!
While you can certainly prepare this Italian must-have as a side dish, I put down a whole bowl as my dinner. Enjoy!
FORMULA BASE: RISOTTO
Serves 4 (as a meal)
- 8 cups homemade vegetable stock (or water)*
- 2 cups Arborio rice**
- 1 cup chopped vegetables (optional) –> I’m using one medium peeled garnet yam.
- ½ cup white wine –> I’m using Riesling.
- 1 small onion –> I’m using yellow.
- Several cloves garlic (go with what you like) –> I’m using three large.
- 2 tbsps oil –> I’m using refined coconut.
- Fresh herbs, spices, salt, and pepper to taste –> I’m using a sprig of fresh rosemary (which I will remove after cooking) and a pinch each pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.
*You may not use it all, but it’ll be close. Have it handy on your stovetop in a pot on low heat, ladle-ready.
**Unlike other grains, do not rinse your Arborio rice before use.
Start by chopping your onion and garlic and sauté in a touch of oil over medium-high heat until they are almost cooked through, but not quite. Then, transfer them to a bowl, return the pan to the stovetop, add a touch more oil, and sauté your vegetables, if using, until almost cooked. Transfer them to a separate bowl and return the pan to the stovetop, this time over medium heat.
Add more oil (about 1 tbsp) to the pan to toast your dry rice. Stir the rice constantly to prevent sticking, toasting it until it has deepened in color slightly, about 5 minutes. Add in half of the cooked onions and garlic, as well as your seasoning of choice, and deglaze your pan with the white wine. After the wine cooks down, add a ladle of your veggie stock and stir fairly regularly over the course of the time it takes for that ladle to absorb completely. You can expect 3-5 minutes between ladles.
You will repeat this process—ladle and stir—many times over the course of 40-45 minutes. When the rice is almost finished, add in the remaining onion and garlic, as well as your veggies (if any), to the pan to finish cooking. From start to finish, this dish will take you 60-75 minutes (depending on how fast you prep and such) and a lot of attention. As soon as the rice is tender, you’re done, so taste as you go.
Garnish with fresh herbs or thinly-sliced green onion. Makes for yummy, comforting leftovers for 3-5 days.