You can fuss up risotto with flavor-packed meats or pristine seafood, but it’s important to note that the dish consists mostly of rice and stock. While everyday ingredients, these two need a little coaxing before they transform into the comforting Italian dish. Just tossing rice and stock in a pot, and leaving them to cook, will result in some fine rice, but you won’t have risotto. Risotto requires technique.
To start, saute high-starch varieties of rice like arborio or carnaroli with some oil until each grain is chalky white. Stock is patiently added one ladle at time, and stirred until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Only then will you end up with something completely different: distinct grains of rice enveloped in an astonishingly creamy sauce. This transformation is all the more amazing considering cream never enters the pot.
The only downside? The tedious act of ladling in the stock can take anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes. Try to speed things up, and you could end up with a pot of mush, which, I shouldn’t have to point out, is not risotto. So even though risotto is made mostly of humble, everyday ingredients, it’s the opposite of a weeknight meal.
Or that’s what I thought until I learned to make risotto in an electric pressure cooker.
For the past few years, I’ve shunned almost all of that stirring, instead relying on an electric pressure cooker to do all of the heavy-lifting. Luckily, cooking rice is one of the abilities of the trendy Instant Pot, not to mention being a one-pot dish. It’s one of those rare occasions when the easier, faster way might actually taste better too.
Here’s how it works in the pressure cooker: Sauté a chopped onion until translucent, about five minutes. Add the arborio or carnaroli rice, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the grains look chalky white. Then add all the broth, stir once, close the lid and set to high pressure for five minutes. Once it’s done, manually release the pressure, and then open the lid.
It will look as though you’ve made a terrible mistake. The broth will have pooled on the top of the rice, looking more like a failed rice soup than risotto. But give it a stir, and the liquid will distribute back into the rice, and you’ll end up with a beautifully creamy risotto, one in which the rice grains are distinct and toothsome.
No standing over the stove with ladle in hand, watching liquid slowly evaporate from a pot. No wondering if you should add another ½ cup of liquid, while the clock ticks. Just set the time and walk away.
I should note that I prefer my risotto to be a bit looser than some. Instead of maintaining its shape after you scoop some into a bowl, this risotto will slowly flatten out over a minute. That said, it shouldn’t be soupy. But if you like yours a little stiffer, all you need to do is press the sauté button on your electric pressure cooker after you release the pressure, and cook for an extra minute or so.
This technique works with any kind of risotto you prefer, whether you incorporate earthy mushrooms or juicy sweet chunks of shrimp to the rice. But before you go wild, it’s best to nail the basics. My favorite is risotto alla Milanese, a relatively stripped-down classic that gets its gorgeous golden color from a spoonful of saffron.