How to Make the Perfect Risotto
Rice is a staple food in many of the Mediterranean countries. But in Italy, it seems to have made its appearance into dishes around about the 14th century. Maybe from contact with the folks from the Iberian Peninsula, maybe from explorers who brought it back to the Italian shores.
No matter when rice made its way to Italy, one of the best places it grows in the entire country is just outside of Milan. Lots of flat land for easy irrigation and lots and lots of humidity combine to produce the perfect climate for growing rice. And has helped make rice a staple in many regional Italian dishes.
One of the most popular rice dishes is risotto. There are a number of cute anecdotes which purport to tell about how rice came to be flavored with saffron. And the most famous of these involves a 14th century stained glass worker putting saffron into the dishes of rice at a marriage feast. But no matter how it came to be, some of the best risotto dishes I have ever tasted have been flavored with this wonderful spice from the flower of the saffron crocus.
There are in general four ingredients in making risotto. The first is the soffritto, which is a melange of vegetables, onions, and olive oil. Soffritto is the vegetable base to a risotto and as such is prepared first by being sauteed in the pan in which the risotto will be prepared. Next you add broth into the soffritto, with beef, vegetable or chicken and then you add the main flavoring ingredient. Which in many cases will be saffron, but can also be small pieces of beef or chicken
When these are all nicely combined, you finally add the rice. Italian rice has nice fat grains that can soak up a lot of liquid and still not get all sticky like Hawaiian or some Chinese rice.
Risotto is a very popular dish and most cooks have their own secret blend d of spices, and a special combination of the vegetables that make up the soffritto. You can also find a great deal of controversy as to when to add the spices during the cooking process, because risotto is fairly complex food to prepare, even though the ingredients are pretty simple, you wind up with special traditional family recipes being handed down from one generation to the next. And these are guarded with an almost religious zeal.
But with the internet bringing us so much great information, you can find a host of traditional risottos to keep you busy inventing your own new traditional recipe. And why not, because good food is meant to be good fun.