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Paolo VasapolliExecutive chef Paolo Vasapolli says a good stock and short-grain rice are the keys to making risotto.

Chef’s perfect risotto owes its success to science

Turns out at that the heavenly mouth-feel and rich deliciousness of classic risotto is all about amylopectin — a starch that readily breaks down when cooked — giving this comfort food naturally occurring creaminess without adding any cream, says Paolo Vasapolli, executive chef in Food Services.

The key to success is using a short-grain rice like arborio, the most common type found in North American grocery stores. The very ambitious can also hunt down carnaroli, vialone, or other similar types of Italian rice.

Make sure to use a very good stock or broth, since the rice will be infused with its essence. Make it from scratch if you can manage it, Vasapolli advises, but even canned stock will do. Parmigiano-Reggiano — the king of Parmesan cheeses — will also bring out the best in any risotto, though you can also use a grocery store brand with good results.

Paolo’s Perfect Risotto

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot or white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 ½ cups arborio, carnaroli, vialone, or similar rice
  • Salt to taste
  • Kale, salmon, fresh mushrooms, beets, spinach, or other flavour ingredient of choice
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ cup white wine (a budget wine is fine)
  • ¼ cup parmigiano cheese
  • Fresh black pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Bring broth (Vasapolli likes to use chicken stock) to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat so the broth remains steaming, but is not simmering.
  2. Heat oil in a pan on medium-low heat. Add small fine diced shallots or white onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about two minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice and salt and stir to coat. At this point you can add kale, smoked salmon, fresh mushrooms, beets, spinach, whatever kind of risotto you would like to make.
  3. Stir 1/2 cup of the hot broth and a splash of wine into the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has been absorbed. Continue to cook on medium-low, adding broth in 1/2-cup increments followed by a splash of wine, and stirring frequently after each addition, until most of the liquid is absorbed. The risotto is done when you’ve used all the broth and wine and the rice is creamy and just tender, 25 to 35 minutes total.
  4. Remove from the heat; stir in some fresh parmigiano cheese and fresh pepper and serve right away.