Risotto with speck and goat cheese
CoursePrimo (Italian course)
Place of originItaly
Region or stateLombardy
Main ingredientsRice, broth, butter, onion, white wine, Parmesan cheese

Risotto is an Italian rice dish cooked with broth until it reaches a creamy consistency. The broth can be derived from meat, fish, or vegetables. Many types of risotto contain butter, onion, white wine, and Parmesan cheese. It is one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy. Saffron was originally used for flavour and its signature yellow colour.[1][2]

Risotto in Italy is often a first course (primo), served before a second course (secondo), but risotto alla milanese is often served with ossobuco alla milanese as a one-course meal.[3]


Lemon and pea risotto

Rice has been grown in southern Italy for centuries. From the south, rice gradually made its way north toward northern Italy, where the marshes of the Po Valley were suitable for rice cultivation.[4] According to a legend, a young glassblower's apprentice of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano from Flanders, who used to use saffron as a pigment, added it to a rice dish at a wedding feast. Risotto is believed to have originated around Lombardy.[5] The first recipe identifiable as risotto dates from 1809. It includes rice sautéed in butter, sausages, bone marrow, and onions with broth with saffron gradually added.[1] There is a recipe for a dish named as a risotto in the 1854 Trattato di cucina (Treatise on Cooking) by Giovanni Vialardi, assistant chief cook to kings.[6] However, the question of who invented the risotto in Milan remains unanswered today.[when?][7]

The rice varieties now[when?] associated with risotto were developed in the 20th century, starting with Maratelli in 1914.[8]

The name risotto (/rɪˈzɒt/ riz-OT-oh, Italian: [riˈzɔtto, -ˈsɔt-]) comes from the Italian riso, lit.'rice'.[9]

Rice varieties

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A high-starch, round, medium- or short- grain white rice is usually used for making risotto.[citation needed] Such rices can absorb liquids and release starch, so they are stickier than the long grain varieties. The principal varieties used in Italy are Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, Padano, Roma, and Vialone Nano.[10] Carnaroli, Maratelli (historical Italian variety) and Vialone Nano are considered to be the best (and most expensive) varieties, with different users preferring one over another. They have slightly different properties. For example, Carnaroli is less likely than Vialone Nano to get overcooked, but the latter, being smaller, cooks faster and absorbs condiments better. Other varieties such as Baldo, Originario, Ribe and Roma may be used but will not have the creaminess of the traditional dish; these varieties are considered better for soups and other non-risotto rice dishes and sweet rice desserts. Rice designations of superfino, semifino, and fino refer to the grains' size and shape (specifically the length and the narrowness) and not the quality.[8]

Basic preparation

There are many different risotto recipes with different ingredients, but they are all based on rice of an appropriate variety, cooked in a standard procedure.[11] Risotto, unlike other rice dishes, requires constant care and attention.[12] The rice is not to be pre-rinsed, boiled, or drained, as washing would remove much of the starch required for a creamy texture.[13][14]

The rice is first cooked briefly in a soffritto of onion and butter or olive oil to coat each grain in a film of fat, called tostatura; white wine is added and must be absorbed by the grains. When it has been absorbed, the heat is raised to medium–high, and boiling stock is gradually added in small amounts while stirring constantly. The constant stirring, with only a small amount of liquid present, forces the grains to rub against each other and release the starch from the outside of the grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured mass.[14][15] When the rice is cooked the pot is taken off the heat for mantecatura, vigorously beating in refrigerated balls of grated Parmesan cheese and butter, to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier and left to cook with its residual heat.[16]

Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy, even if no cream is added, due to the starch in the grains.[14] It has some resistance or bite (al dente) and separate grains. The traditional texture is fairly fluid, or all'onda ('wavy' or 'flowing in waves'). It is served on flat dishes and should easily spread out but not have excess watery liquid around the perimeter. It must be eaten at once, as it continues to cook in its own heat, making the grains absorb all the liquid and become soft and dry.[citation needed]

Italian regional variations

Many variations have their own names:

Name Photo Description
Risotto alla milanese A speciality of Milan, made with beef stock, beef bone marrow, lard (instead of butter) and cheese, flavoured and coloured with saffron
Risotto al Barolo A speciality of Piedmont, made with red wine, which may include sausage meat or borlotti beans
Risotto al nero di seppia A speciality of Veneto, made with cuttlefish cooked with their ink sacs intact, leaving the risotto black
Risi e bisi A Veneto spring dish that is correctly served with a spoon rather than a fork; it is a soup so thick that it resembles a risotto. It is made with green peas using the stock from the fresh young pods, flavoured with pancetta.[17][18]
Risotto alla zucca Made with pumpkin, nutmeg, and grated cheese
Risotto alla pilota A speciality of Mantua, Lombardy, made with sausage, pork, and Parmesan cheese
Risotto ai funghi A variant made with mushrooms such as porcini, Suillus luteus, Kuehneromyces mutabilis or Agaricus bisporus
Risotto ai frutti di mare A variant made with seafood of seaside Italian cities
Risotto al tartufo nero Made with, usually, black truffle

See also

Media related to Risotto at Wikimedia Commons The dictionary definition of Risotto at Wiktionary Risotto at the Wikibooks Cookbook subproject


  1. ^ a b Roberto Perron (29 January 2011). "La fabbrica del Duomo e l'invenzione del risotto". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  2. ^ Artusi, Pellegrino (1891). La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene [The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well] (in Italian). Recipes 78-80. Still, in print, there are many editions in many languages.
  3. ^ "Ricetta Ossobuco e risotto, piatto unico di Milano" [Recipe for ossobuco and risotto, one-course meal dish of Milano]. Le ricette de La Cucina Italiana (in Italian). 29 April 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  4. ^ "All About Risotto: The History & Fundamentals of a Favorite Italian Dish". www.cuisineathome.com. Retrieved 2022-06-19.
  5. ^ Fodor's (2009). Fodor's Italy 2010. Fodor's Travel Publications. ISBN 9781400008490.
  6. ^ La Cucina del Riso, p76, Accademia Italiana della Cucina, 2014. ISBN 978-88-89116-32-6.
  7. ^ Summary of Risotto. Storia di un piatto italiano by Alberto Salarelli, 2010, published by Sometti. ISBN 8874953518.
  8. ^ a b Lorella Fabris (1 August 2014). "Tipi di riso, varietà e usi". Agrodolce.it (in Italian). Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  9. ^ risotto, Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  10. ^ Green, Aliza (2006). Starting with Ingredients. Running Press. p. 810. ISBN 978-0-7624-2747-5.
  11. ^ Felicity Cloake (6 May 2010). "How to make the perfect risotto". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  12. ^ "Risotto rice". BBC goodfood. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  13. ^ "When to Rinse Rice". Cook's Illustrated. November 2009. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  14. ^ a b c Sam Wong (24 May 2017). "Proof in the pudding: Myth-busting 15 common cooking tips". New Scientist. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  15. ^ McGee, Harold (2004). "Risotto". McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 475. ISBN 9780340831496.
  16. ^ Matt Preston (17 June 2014). "Cooking ripper risotto". Taste.com. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  17. ^ Eleonora Baldwin. "Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino". aglioolioepeperoncino.com. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  18. ^ Felicity Cloake (25 May 2017). "How to cook the perfect risi e bisi". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 July 2017.

Further reading