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Creamy parmesan risotto is a classic dish anyone can make at home! Using pantry ingredients along with cheese, one taste is enough to make you fall in love.
Risotto gets a bad rap sometimes as a difficult and heavy dish, but it’s really not!
Yes, there is stirring involved, but with purpose. I find it soothing, even, to stir in the broth and watch the rice transform.
As for heavy? That can depend on what you add to your risotto, but this simple parmesan risotto is brightened up with lemon juice and has just the right amount of nutty parmesan cheese.
Why you’ll love this dish
Risotto is a Northern Italian rice dish that is characterized by tender short grain rice in a creamy sauce. It’s often a menu staple at fine dining restaurants and has endless flavor possibilities.
Even though it seems so fancy, we make risotto often! Here’s why:
- Simple method – All it takes is stirring, and two pots.
- Pantry ingredients – You might not even need to hit the grocery store to make this dish. You can even swap the arborio rice if needed.
- Economical – Since we’re using simple ingredients, it won’t break the bank to put together this elegant dish.
- Family friendly – My kids love risotto and constantly ask for “that cheesy rice dish”!
- Customizable – It’s so easy to add in your favorite veggies or meats to risotto to make it a heartier side or main meal.
One thing I love about making creamy parmesan risotto is that aside from the cheese, it’s made with pantry ingredients I always have on hand.
Arborio rice is a short-grain rice used most commonly for risotto. Other common rices include carnaroli, nano, or baldo, but arborio is the most common in the United States.
These varieties contain more starch than long-grain rices like basmati, which helps to create the creamy sauce risotto is known for while retaining a soft but toothsome texture.
Most grocery stores carry at least one brand of arborio rice, but if yours does not, you can swap in another short-grain rice, or in a pinch, medium-grain rice. You can also find arborio rice online.
Do not buy the boxed mixes labeled as risotto, which come with seasoning packets and are more of an “instant” version.
If you’d like to keep this dish vegetarian, use vegetable broth. I choose low-sodium, as I prefer to add my own salt to taste.
You can also use chicken stock or broth, or any of your own homemade broths.
Shallots are related to onions and garlic. In fact, you might have even confused them with one or the other!
Shallots have a lightly sweet flavor with just a bit of sharpness, unlike onions that tend to have more bite. Their flavor is perfect for risotto, and are a great option for people who don’t like the heat of onions.
You can also swap in an equal amount of chopped onion for the chopped shallot, if you prefer.
Olive oil or butter
To saute, you’ll need either olive oil or butter. I also like to finish the dish with a bit of butter to add to the sauce.
While optional, white wine adds acidity and wonderful flavor to risotto.
It helps cut the richness of the dish as well. However, you can also use a bit of white wine vinegar or lemon juice for the same purpose.
I recommend choosing a wine that you also like to drink, and not a “cooking wine.” You only need ¼ cup in this recipe, so chill the rest of the bottle to serve with dinner!
Concerned about the alcohol? It will cook off, leaving only the flavor behind, making this dish suitable for all ages. However, if you prefer to keep your risotto alcohol free, just skip the wine.
Freshly grated parmesan
Obviously for parmesan risotto we’re going to need parmesan!
I highly recommend grabbing a wedge of parmesan and grating it at home, rather than packaged grated parmesan.
While it can be more expensive, grating cheese at home gives you a better texture that allows the cheese to melt beautifully into the risotto, with no grainy bits left behind.
Save your parmesan rinds, too, and add them to the broth when making dishes like chicken wild rice soup.
A bit of lemon juice brightens the dish to finish. Bottled lemon juice will work just fine.
If you have fresh lemons on hand, be sure to juice into a separate container before adding to the risotto to prevent seeds from getting into the dish.
You can also add lemon zest for even more citrus flavor.
Tips for making risotto
The most important thing to remember is that risotto is cooked slowly over moderate heat.
That doesn’t mean it will take hours, but it does require patience. It can be tempting to mix in the broth all at once, but in order to achieve that perfectly creamy texture, small additions are necessary.
Also be sure to warm the broth before adding to the rice, and keep it simmering. Adding cold broth will slow down the cooking process and can even prevent the dish from cooking properly to achieve its trademark consistency.
I recommend keeping the broth on the stove in a small pot over medium heat rather than heating it in a microwave. You likely will not have any remaining stock, so don’t worry about heating too much!
Don’t forget to toast your rice after sauteeing the shallot. This helps to create a “shell” around the rice grains, which keeps the broth from absorbing too quickly.
It also keeps the grain from popping open and making the rice mushy, as well as develops extra flavor. You don’t need to do it for too long, but it makes a world of difference in the final dish!
You’ll know the rice is done when it is tender but not mushy.
Add the grated parmesan cheese and a bit of butter after the rice is fully cooked for the ultimate in creaminess.
You can serve it with extra parmesan cheese on top, fresh parsley, crushed red chile flakes, grilled chicken, or simply salt and pepper to taste.
What to serve with risotto
I love making risotto as a standalone dish, but it’s so perfect as a starter course or side with just about anything.
If you’re looking for a different drink, why not pair it with a refreshing frozen aperol spritz?
Any leftover risotto can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Remember that when you reheat risotto, it will have lost the original creamy texture, but still be delicious!
You can restore some of the creaminess by reheating it slowly in a saucepan, adding a small amount of broth.
You can also use leftover risotto to make arancini for a wonderful appetizer.
Make this parmesan risotto today — you’ll see how easy it is to enjoy right from your own kitchen.
- Pour the broth into a small saucepan and set over medium heat.
- In a large saucepan set over medium-low heat, add olive oil. Once shimmering, add shallots and sauté until soft and translucent.
- Increase heat to medium and add rice. Cook for about 2 minutes, just until lightly toasted and only the center of the grains are white. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, if using, cooking until almost evaporated.
- Add 2 cups of the warm broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the broth is absorbed. Continue to add ½ cup of broth at a time, stirring to prevent rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- After about 15 minutes of cooking, taste the rice for doneness. Continue to add broth and cook until rice is tender but not mushy.
- Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese, butter, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with additional cheese for topping.