This is a classic Italian rice dish cooked to creamy perfection.

It is a testament to the elegance of simplicity in cooking. Transforming humble ingredients into a dish that is both comforting and luxurious, risotto has earned its place as a beloved staple in Italian cuisine and beyond.

Classic Rice Risotto Recipe

Skill Level: Intermediate

This recipe is for those with some basic cooking skills. It requires attention to detail, patience, and a bit of finesse to get the perfect creamy texture without overcooking the rice.

Healthy Aspects

Risotto is a good source of carbohydrates and, depending on your additions, can be enriched with vegetables for fiber and vitamins. Using low-sodium broth and moderate amounts of cheese makes it healthier.

Classic Rice Risotto Recipe

Time & Servings

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 30 minutes
  • Total time: 40 minutes
  • Servings: 4


  • Arborio rice: 8 ounces (227 grams) (See Arborio Substitutions)
  • Low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth: 4 cups (960 ml)
  • Olive oil: 2 tablespoons (30 ml)
  • Finely chopped onion: 1 medium
  • Dry white wine: 1/2 cup (120 ml)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese: 3 ounces (85 grams)
  • Unsalted butter: 2 tablespoons (30 grams)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Broth Preparation: In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.
  2. Sauté Onions: In a separate heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they are translucent.
  3. Toast Rice: Add the rice to the onions, stirring to coat with oil. Cook until the rice becomes a pale, golden color.
  4. Add Wine: Pour in the wine, stirring continuously until it has been fully absorbed by the rice.
  5. Cook the Risotto: Add 1/2 cup of warm broth to the rice and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more.
  6. Check Rice: Cook until the rice is al dente and the mixture is a creamy consistency, about 20 minutes.
  7. Final Touches: Remove from heat. Stir in butter and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley.

Best Tips for Perfection

  • Stir constantly to prevent sticking.
  • Use warm broth to avoid reducing the cooking temperature.
  • Avoid overcooking; risotto should be slightly al dente.
  • Serve immediately as risotto continues to thicken off the heat.

Optional Ingredients

  • Mushrooms, sautéed separately and added at the end.
  • Saffron, for a classic Milanese risotto.
  • Cooked seafood for a luxurious variant.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with a light salad, steamed vegetables, or enjoy as a stand-alone dish. Complement with a glass of crisp white wine.

Nutrient Information (per serving)

  • Calories: Approximately 350-400
  • Carbohydrates: 45-50g
  • Protein: 10-15g
  • Fat: 10-15g

Storing & Reheating Leftovers

  • Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Reheating: Add a little broth or water and reheat gently on the stove, stirring frequently.

Substitutes for Arborio for this Classic Rice Risotto Recipe

Yes, you can use other types of rice for risotto, though the results will vary from the traditional version which uses Arborio rice.

The key characteristic of a good risotto rice is its high starch content, which lends the dish its signature creamy texture. Here are some alternatives:

  1. Carnaroli Rice: Often called the ‘king of risotto rice,’ Carnaroli has a higher starch content and firmer texture than Arborio. It’s less likely to get mushy, making it a great choice for risotto.
  2. Vialone Nano: This is another Italian variety, shorter and rounder than Arborio. It’s particularly good for absorbing flavors and maintaining a creamy yet firm texture.
  3. Pearl Barley: While not a rice, pearl barley can be used for a risotto-like dish. It won’t be as creamy but offers a unique texture and nutty flavor, plus additional fiber.
  4. Brown Rice: For a healthier take, brown rice can be used. It has more fiber and nutrients but takes longer to cook and won’t be as creamy as traditional risotto rice.
  5. Sushi Rice: Sushi rice can be used as a substitute due to its stickiness, but it tends to be a bit too sticky for the creamy, loose consistency of a classic risotto.

When using these substitutes, be mindful that cooking times and liquid amounts may vary.

Additionally, the final texture will be different from a traditional risotto, but still delicious in its own right.

Here’s why…

The final texture of risotto varies with different types of rice due to the differences in starch content and grain structure:

  1. Starch Content:
    Traditional risotto rice varieties like Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano have high levels of amylopectin, a type of starch that contributes to the creaminess of risotto. When these grains are stirred during cooking, they release this starch, creating a creamy, thick sauce without the need for cream or excessive butter. Other rice varieties might have less amylopectin, resulting in a less creamy texture.
  2. Grain Structure:
    The structure of the rice grain also plays a crucial role. Arborio and similar varieties have a firm, chewy center (the al dente texture), even when the outside of the grain is soft and creamy. This contrast is a hallmark of a good risotto. Other types of rice may not maintain this distinct textural contrast upon cooking. For example, sushi rice might become too sticky, while long-grain rice varieties, like Basmati or Jasmine, may remain too separate and fluffy for the classic risotto consistency.
  3. Absorption Capacity:
    Different rice types absorb liquids in varying amounts and rates. Traditional risotto rice absorbs liquid while maintaining structure, whereas other types might become too soft or mushy when cooked in the same way.

Thus, while you can make a risotto-style dish with different types of rice, the unique creaminess and textural contrast characteristic of a classic risotto mainly depend on the specific properties of traditional Italian risotto rices.

(Learn about rice on Wikipedia.)

Origin and History

Interestingly, originating from Northern Italy, risotto’s history dates back to the 1800s. The introduction of rice to Italy in the Middle Ages led to the development of this unique cooking method, showcasing the versatility of rice.

The Good News

Whether you’re a risotto novice or a seasoned pro, this classic dish rewards with rich flavors and a luxurious texture. Perfect for a cozy dinner or a special occasion, risotto is a timeless dish that continues to delight palates around the world.