Risotto is a lot like polenta: It seems intimidating to make, but it’s actually very simple (as long as you know what to do). Use this recipe for Parmesan risotto as your jumping-off point. It’s like a blank canvas for toppings (but just as delicious on its own).
There are a few key steps in making this dish that might make you think, huh? but are essential to a creamy but not gloppy, al dente bowl of risotto. For starters, you’ll want to heat up your cooking liquid (in this case, salted water). This ensures that as you add it in increments, it won’t cool down the rice or halt the cooking. And secondly, while you should definitely heed that “stirring constantly” directive, it’s not the end of the world if you stop for a minute. Just don’t step away from the pot (or you’ll risk your risotto drying out).
Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Leeks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
½ small onion, finely chopped
1 cup risotto rice (such as Arborio or Carnaroli)
½ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1. In a medium saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a simmer.
2. In another medium Dutch oven or saucepan, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and completely tender, 7 to 9 minutes. (You don’t want the onion to brown, so lower the heat as needed.) Season with a pinch of salt.
3. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice looks translucent at the edges, about 5 minutes. (This helps it cook evenly as you add the liquid.)
4. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Season with another pinch of salt.
5. Add the water to the rice in ¾-cup additions, stirring constantly and allowing the liquid to absorb completely between each addition. Repeat until the rice is al dente and creamy but not too thick, 25 to 30 minutes. (You may not use all the water, but that’s OK. You want the texture to be more liquid than solid.)
6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter. Gradually add the Parmesan cheese, stirring to incorporate. Add more water as needed if the risotto becomes too thick. Divide among four bowls and serve with lots of freshly ground black pepper (and more Parmesan if desired.)