We know that making a pot of risotto requires practically all of your attention. In addition to keeping the broth at a bare simmer, the rice needs almost nonstop stirring. It’s not the kind of a dish you can cook in a hurry, but we have never been put off by whatever it takes to make it. In fact, we are so mesmerized by the transformation that takes place in the pot, we never even think about handing the spoon over to a second in command.
At the beginning, all there is to see are firm grains of rice simmering in broth. But as the cooking continues and more broth is added, the rice swells and the mixture develops the creaminess that defines risotto. Although where the creation of risotto occurred is something of a mystery, historians generally agree that it goes back to the 11th century and was probably first made in Sicily with rice from the Far East. Restaurant cooks, who don’t have the kind of time it takes to make risotto in a single step, have devised ways to do some of the prep ahead.
However, home cooks generally make risotto from start to finish without leaving the stove and serve it as soon as it comes off the heat. In Italy, risotto, like pasta, is eaten as the first course as part of a meal that has several courses, but we have no trouble sitting down to a big plate of risotto and calling it supper. It’s that good.
By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.