Any cook worth their apron will tell you that the secret to outstanding risotto is: using the best quality ingredients you can find and patience. Risotto is not difficult to make, but it does require constant attention and stirring. Do what we do, turn on some Sinatra, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy the moment.
To add depth and mystery, this earthy version relies on the umami* created by the dried porcini mushrooms. So don’t toss the liquid from the porcinis, you’ll need it! If you want to forgo the vegetarian version, add slices of grilled tenderloin or chicken to the finished dish.
6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, diced and divided
4 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1 pound fresh portabella and crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted with hot water, then drained (reserve liquid)
2 cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh Italian parsley, for garnish
1. Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.
2. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add half of the reserved onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic, cook, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, thyme, bay leaves, chopped parsley and butter. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned and season with salt and pepper.
3. Chop drained porcini mushrooms and add to skillet. Sauté for an additional minute, remove from heat and set aside.
4. Add reserved porcini liquid to warm broth and mix well.
5. Coat a large saucepan with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Sauté the remaining onion and garlic until softened. Add the rice and stir quickly until it is well-coated and opaque about 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook until it is nearly all evaporated.
6. Using a large ladle, add about 1 cup of the warm broth to the rice and cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. (This would also be a good time to crank up the volume on your favorite playlist as you settle into stirring.) Continue adding the broth, 1 cup at a time, while stirring to allow the rice to absorb each addition of broth before adding more. Taste as you go along. The risotto should be slightly firm and creamy, not mushy. Note: you may not need all of the broth to achieve the desired consistency.
7. After the rice is done, test for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Then, stir in mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, cooking briefly until melted. Top with chopped parsley before serving.
* Umami, also known as the fifth taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami), is the sensation that gives certain foods—vegetables and meats— that wonderful, savory taste!