Sometimes I have big food plans. Roasted Turkey Roulade with Maple Chestnut Brussle sprouts? That was on the menu yesterday. You'll notice however, that's not what I made. Sometimes I have big food plans, but then sometimes it snows and I lock myself out of my car. Sometimes I just want a big bowl of comfort food. We've all been there, right?
I love risotto. It's one of those dishes that makes me think of spending a weekend with my grandmother. I don't however, love making risotto. That also reminds me of my grandmother. She would only make it on occasion because it involved long periods of standing at the stove stirring. As she put it, "if you want it you have to let me know the night before because it's an all day thing."
My first attempt at making risotto was just after college. I'm fairly certain that what I got was an inedible pile of goo (the science of cooking wasn't as clear to me back then). In the intermittent years I would purchase those "box" risotto kits. Let's be honest, that is not risotto. It's warm rice with cheese, that's about the only comparison. Real risotto is creamy and rich, salty, and savory all at once. I decided that risotto was just not something you could make at home without significant laborious efforts. I resigned to only ordering it at restaurants.
A friend told me about a risotto that her sister made that essentially cooked itself in the oven and required minimal stirring. Blasphemy! Right? Impossible! Right? Well, I figured it was worth checking out, so I did a little google search and low and behold, Ina Garten has a recipe for risotto that bakes in the oven.
To say I trust Ina with my (cooking) life is an understatement. If she puts it out into the universe, I try it. As far as I'm concerned she taught me how to cook (there's a lot of I'm still learning, but I cooked my way through a few of her books, and I think I've got the basics down). So if Ina says risotto can be made in the oven, so be it. This recipe is in her cookbook, "How Easy Is That?" (for the record, it's very, very, easy).
So here it is, Ina's Easy Parmesan Risotto. That's not just a name, it really is the most easy dish I've ever made. I think it was even easier than setting and forgetting the Crockpot (cause let's be honest you never actually forget it, you stop and check it throughout the day and hope your house doesn't catch fire). To start you'll need:
1 1/2 cups aborio rice
4 cups of (good) chicken stock
Step one: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pour 1 1/2 cups of aborio rice into a dutch oven (or a pot that can go into your oven). B-T-Dubs, if you don't have a dutch oven, get one, it's the one thing in my kitchen that I use almost every day. Anyways, pour your rice into a dutch oven and cover it with 4 cups of chicken stock. Of course Ina recommends homemade, in full disclosure (not that you'res surprised) I used store bought, but I'm sure Ina would say that was fine.
Place the lid on and pop in the oven for 45 minutes. Seriously, that's the majority of this recipe. I told you- easy!
After 45 minutes remove the pot from the oven and add the remaining ingredients (except for the peas):
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese *
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, dice it first
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup frozen peas
*I have started to substitute Romano cheese for Parmesan because I prefer it (it has a little more bite), but you do you!
Stir the mixture for 3 minutes. In "risotto terms" three minutes is nothing. If however, you're not used to vigorous stirring, be ready for some sore forearms. This step is actually the most important. The stirring releases the starch from the rice and creates the creamy texture that risotto is known for. You may want to set a time or watch the clock, because I guarantee that you'll be convince three minutes has passed only to find out it's been a mere 30 seconds (or maybe that's just me...berates self for lack of upper body strength). I know the picture looks like a globby mess, but trust the process, it will turn into luxurious creamy risotto.
After the stirring- add in your peas, mix until they are heated, and you're done. No really, that's it. A true one pot, easy, minimal prep meal. I like to let mine sit for five minutes before serving, but many people prefer it piping hot. Once you get this basic recipe down you can experiment using different liquid bases and add ins. You can substitute the chicken stock for pumpkin stock and add sage for a nice fall dish. Butternut squash and saffron make nice add-ins as well. My grandmother sometimes used a red sauce for something a little more hearty and mixed in Romano cheese. Seasonal vegetables and spices can transform the dish. Finally, you can add in a protein to create a complete meal. What are your favorite risotto combinations? Share below!