Rice

1. Toasting. Whether you prepared a vegetable gravy (usually the classic onion gravy) to give the rice a particular taste, or you didn’t, first you have to toast the rice in a saucepan together with some fat. This insures that rice will close up its pores and it will stay firmer after cooking, so that it can be “al dente”. If you omit this step, the final texture of the rice will be similar to that of normal boiled rice.
2. Pour in some wine, usually white wine for the risotti that will have to have a light colour when served, otherwise red wine for risotto al radicchio (chicory). Wine has to always evaporate. Only when you stop smelling wine, you can proceed in the preparation.
3. Pour in some broth. The broth has to be steaming, not to decrease the cooking temperature. The secret is actually this: during the whole cooking time, the rice has to be lightly boiling, this way the rice-grain will never melt, but will remain solid.
4. Final Creaming with butter (“Mantecatura”). This is where all tastes melt together enhancing each particular quality. First you have to taste your risotto, to understand how far cooking has progressed and if its taste is ok. If rice is cooked enough, you have to put out the flame and move the pan away from the fire, adding butter and parmesan. Only this way you can have a perfect creaming. Remember to do this while the rice is still a fairly brothy, otherwise it will get too dry. Blend together butter and parmesan stirring quickly, then let it rest for a minute before serving it.

Many chef believe that preparing risotto with the onion gravy is an insult for their cooking art, claiming that browned onion would take away from the taste of the main ingredient, covering its taste. So they start from toasting, adding the ingredients little by little, and they finish off with creaming. Their philosophy is that if we start up from a good broth (where onion is present together with other vegetables) we don’t need to add onion in the “soffritto”. Some other chefs keep preparing their risotto with the initial “soffritto”, instead. For most of the risotto types, onion gravy insn’t necessary if you have a good broth. A good onion gravy is required only for those rice-dishes that follow traditional historical recipes, linked more to tradition than to the final taste. The amounts to be used for preparing risotto is usually 80g per person. Keep in mind that rice increases its volume threefold, while pasta only doubles it. Cooking times for rice depend on the various types, for example if you use brown rice, it won’t be ready before 30 minutes, while for a normal risotto, 16-18 minutes will be enough for a good “al dente” rice. During the course, many tests will focus on creaming, on butter acidification, and on the parameters allowing you to control risotto’s texture and acidity, so that the new cook can understand where their intervention space might lie for creating a new dish.