Is there anything better than good risotto? It’s a gorgeous version of comfort food, all creamy and slightly salty and cheesy, with lots of possible flavor combinations. So delicious! Many home cooks avoid it because they just don’t know the basics. If you have just a little bit of patience, some chicken stock, good Arborio rice and some cheese on hand, you’re 25 minutes away from perfect risotto…I promise!
I admit I was scared of risotto. I consider myself an accomplished and adventurous home cook, but my confidence faded just short of this classic Italian rice dish. Then came the blizzard of 2009. I was buried under 38 inches of snow with my family and decided that I’d be productive. I took on both risotto and gelato that weekend and never looked back!
So, here’s what I leaned through some research and trial and error. I’m going to share a basic risotto recipe that you can play around with in infinite ways. Tonight, I’m making a version of it that includes spinach, shrimp, bacon, fresh spring peas, basil and parmigiano reggiano cheese. But honestly, once you have the basics down, you can use almost any combination of herbs, grated or crumbled cheeses, vegetables, and protein, if desired. So go ahead, get out your most comfortable wooden spoon, open up a nice bottle of wine and get down to it!
I’m going to go ahead and share the recipe I’m using this evening, but as I’ve suggested, you can leave out the vegetables and protein and sub out whatever you like. As long as you follow the technique and use the same ratio of fat, wine, stock, rice, cheese and herbs, you can be as creative as you want.
Spinach, Pea, Shrimp and Bacon Risotto
1 Tbsp Olive oil (or butter or bacon drippings as you prefer)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock or broth (you could use beef, seafood, vegetable stock, etc..)
½ cup dry white wine (or other wine choice)
1 cup Arborio rice
3 oz baby spinach leaves, rough chopped
¾ cup sweet peas
4 slices of bacon, cooked
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped fresh parsley and basil
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
salt & pepper to taste