Eric Guido Master Class: Risotto

A Step by Step Guide to an Italian Classic


Eric is back with another recipe, and this time he’s gone the extra mile by including the steps he takes in making the perfect risotto. What a simple pleasure risotto is! This classic Northern Italian dish needs but a few very simple ingredients--stock, rice, butter, and cheese--yet yields a dish that is creamy, complex, an ultimate wine food, and the base for a virtually endless array of combinations that will ensure you never run out of risotto ideas.

The trick, of course, is perfecting that basic Risotto Bianco. With Eric’s step-by-step directions, illustrative photos, great ingredients, and some patience, you’re sure to master it in no time.  One thing that is worth pointing out is that Risotto is not the place to skimp on ingredients. With so little to hide the pure flavors of the ingredients it is vital that you start with the best you can find, so make sure you get fresh, sweet butter, the best short grain rice you can locate, freshly grated cheese, and plan ahead so that you can make your own stock!

Meet Chef Eric Guido

After working in the New York City restaurant scene, Eric Guido branched out, organizing private dining and tasting events centered around Italian cuisine and wine. Here he began to incorporate food photography and recipe development.  His continuing work can be seen at   Eric’s passion for food and wine is fueled by the togetherness and satisfaction found at the table.
I once had a friend ask me about making risotto.  He had sampled this dish on a number of occasions in my home and had yet to be able to recreate those results on his own.  Nor had he found any restaurant risotto that came close to mine. It’s amazing how something so wonderful and so simple can leave people scratching their heads because in reality, there is really only one secret ingredient: patience.  I suppose patience is something that comes at a premium these days.  However, I doubt I'm the only one who remembers my grandmother cooking for five hours every Sunday morning and the luxurious feast that would result from it.

In this case it is less about patience and more about turning over tables and getting food out quickly.  You see, the average restaurant wants to be able to complete a dish within 3 - 5 minutes, once it's fired (started), which makes the 18 - 20 minute cooking process of risotto a problem.  The answer in most establishments is to precook the rice, literally to the point where it is nearly done.  Then when an order comes in, the rice is scooped from a holding tray and the risotto is finished.  Anyone who truly loves risotto would frown upon this, but finding places that understand the importance of making risotto from start to finish, at the time it is ordered, are few and far between.

I assure you that, with a little patience and a bit of technique, you can make risotto that will thrill your guests and put you on the road to mastering this preparation.  We'll start with the most basic, White Risotto with Parmigiano Reggiano, which is the foundation that you can build upon to create a multitude of recipes.  Then, I’ll show you how to create something unique, Asparagus Risotto with Toasted Almonds, by simply making a few small tweaks of the original recipe.  As for wine, a textbook pairing for each of these recipes is Arneis.

White Risotto with Parmigiano Reggiano is the first risotto I ever made and the one that hooked me for life.  Nowhere else will you find the purest and simplest qualities of risotto showcased on a single plate.  The rice is al dente and pearly white with a luminescent sheen, suspended in a savory sauce.  The Parmigiano adds nuttiness and salinity, which helps to enrich the slight chicken flavor of the stock and sweet shallots.  Each individual smell and flavor lends its qualities to the whole and promotes a sensation of warmth and comfort.

Asparagus risotto with toasted almonds takes the recipe above and fortifies its hearty richness with fresh, sweet vegetal notes.  The components are nearly the same, but the asparagus creates the perfect yin to the white risotto’s yang and, in doing so, makes for an exciting and indulgent meal.  The toasted almonds not only lend wonderful color to the presentation but are also a main part of the dish, and they provide a crunchy, toasted, and slightly salty diversion from the rich risotto and succulent asparagus.

The 2008 Vietti Roero Arneis shows the color of golden yellow straw with whimsical aromas of spring rain, white flowers and lime.  On the palate you find Granny Smith apple, green melon, and orange rind, all carried by vibrant acidity with a laser-like focus that cuts through the risotto like a knife.  The finish shows citrus fruit and leaves your palate feeling cleansed and refreshed.

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  • This sounds so fantastic... but alas, i am terribly lactose/dairy intolerant. However i CAN have sheep's or goat's cheese.

    Is it possible to make this with either of those? if so, what do you recommend - or is there a great risotto with out any dairy products at all? i am not a bad cook but i can't imagine how. Perhaps a real pro like you has an answer.

    Of course this would not be a problem, i would never crave real Risotto if i'd never had it, but years ago i did before my intolerance became too much. once you've had a bite of the such a luxurious food, you can never forget it!

    Mar 12, 2010 at 1:49 PM

  • I am a huge fan of risotto and could eat it any time of the day with almost any added ingredient.
    Even some of the greatest restaurants have often let me down. Once you have perfect risotto there is no going back.
    Thank you so much for your fantastic step by step instructions and recipes!!!

    Mar 12, 2010 at 2:47 PM

  • Snooth User: gojuliego
    298874 1

    Lovely recipe. Carol - try EVOO instead of butter and goat cheese in place of the parmesan. My guests raved about my goat cheese risotto served with beef tenderloin and a cranberry port sauce. The cranberry brought a nice balance with the rich goat cheese.

    Mar 12, 2010 at 3:06 PM

  • I absolutely adore risotto !! As an Argentine-Italian home cook I have mastered it and it is one of my most requested dishes !!! especially the risotto milanese. Salute !!
    Wines to go? Argentine Torrontes !!! great pairing and awesome to make the risotto too.

    Mar 12, 2010 at 3:41 PM

  • Just one more thing: Italians will not use the risotto as a side dish, it is served before the main course, as a "primo piatto". Using it as a side is OK but it's not the Italian way.

    Mar 12, 2010 at 3:42 PM

  • @CaroltheArtist: If you have a good cheese counter near you (Whole Foods is great if you have one nearby) ask the cheesemonger for a dry cheese made of 100% sheep's milk. True Italian Pecorino Romano cheese is made from sheep's milk, and while quite a bit sharper than Parmesan, it is very good. You might want to combine true Spanish Manchego (also 100% sheep's milk) with true Italian Pecorino Romano and see how that tastes. You need to get the true cheeses with the domination of origin seal to be sure they are made of 100% sheep's milk.

    Mar 12, 2010 at 3:57 PM

  • Snooth User: dobbswi
    210616 51

    CarolTheArtist, I too am lactose intolerant. I always substitute a buttery EVOO from Pulgia (Apulia) or Siciliy for butter. As for the Cheese, either an aged goat's milk cheese or an aged sheep's milk cheese would work best. Make sure to get a nutty and grainy one rather than a sharp one if you want to approximate the Parmesan taste. Pecorino Romano is lovely but may be too sharp for either version of this dish.

    Mar 12, 2010 at 4:13 PM

  • You folks with your dairy-alternative ideas are really wonderful. Wow, I can hardly wait to try some of these. i have a Whole Foods nearby and also a wonderful Italian market called Cosentino's, with some goat's and sheep's cheese, and now i know specifically what to ask for. Will check in again later if anyone else has something to add. and if i get one of these made this weekend you'll hear about it.

    Mar 12, 2010 at 5:45 PM

  • Snooth User: Teedagg
    392244 31

    Risotto - the perfect date night primer for my husband and I. We cook together and it's Dan's job to make the risotto while I cook the rest of the meal. Even our daughter loves to stir while we cook. It's great to expirament with all the different additions you can put in it!

    Mar 12, 2010 at 6:11 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
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    Looks like everyone took care of Carol's question pretty well. Goat cheese risotto is great. I have a killer recipe for just that thing and I'll see if I can dig it up to share.

    Glad everyone has enjoyed the article. I figured it was about time that I wrote something like this since it's one of the most common questions people ask me.

    Teedagg, that's great. I never really thought of it like that but reading your post suddenly made me long for a family event as you described. Food making family sounds like a great family to me.

    Mar 12, 2010 at 9:06 PM

  • All praise for the basic recipe for risotto — but the very last stage is missing: when the rice is done (the perfect cooking of rice, as an Indian author says, is "a matter of gentle persuasion") you should add another small nut of butter, cover the pan and let it wait for a few minutes before serving. I have been resident in Italy for forty years now. Experto crede!

    Mar 13, 2010 at 3:09 AM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
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    Timothy, first I've heard of a waiting period with the pan covered, I have let it rest for a short time in the past, granted I've learned and studied in the States. My worry is that the rice would overcook.

    The mounting with butter is present in the recipe but not the covered resting period, still hard for me to bend my head around that.

    If anything, the many european families I've cooked for have praised the doneness of the risotto's I've served in particular.

    Mar 13, 2010 at 8:43 AM

  • Good on yer, mate! And God forbid I should presume to teach senators wisdom.

    Mar 13, 2010 at 11:38 AM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
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    Timothy, Not dismissing your comment, Just considering how I'd have to change the recipe to account for it. In fact, if you'd be willing to send me the recipe you cook by, I'd love to try it.

    Mar 13, 2010 at 12:23 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 5,000

    marcela, so you've never had ossobuco together with risotto milanese on the same plate? Though that is perhaps a good example of the exception that proves the rule...

    Eric, thanks for sharing. Will try your bianco with some lamb shanks tonight cooked old-skool style without tomato. Am also thinking barbaresco....

    Mar 13, 2010 at 2:36 PM

  • Dear Eric, please forgive my flippancy — pardonable, perhaps, at age 67. My risotto recipe does not perceptibly differ from yours, any variation I could think of would be nugatory. What I could supply are foolproof recipes for osso buco (yes, with risotto) and a version of stracotto (known to me and my guests as "Keates's Braised Beef"). What about it?

    Mar 14, 2010 at 1:08 PM

  • Snooth User: screenfood
    164727 14

    I'd be very interested in the recipe for the picture on your blog - a seductive mushroom-risotto.

    Mar 14, 2010 at 6:47 PM

  • Snooth User: jje16
    369424 3

    Instead of using butter for the final resting stage, I've used heavy cream. This works wonderful with parmesan cheese but detracts from the color.

    Mar 15, 2010 at 2:41 PM

  • Snooth User: rar8888
    Hand of Snooth
    158026 1,286

    This was fantastic. Thank you Eric for the wonderful recipe and great instructions. I shared this with extended family and everyone was very impressed. Thanks again and cheers.

    Mar 15, 2010 at 10:07 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
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    timothy-Keates, I'd love to see your osso buco recipe. I've been testing recipes for osso buco lately. If you prefer, you can send it private message. Or if you like, post it right here.

    screenfood, I'll see about typing it up for you. You'll notice there's not much difference in the timing or ingredients except for a few things, like creating a mushroom stock from vegetable stock and of course the mushrooms themselves.

    jje16, You're absolutely right about the heavy cream. Slightly different consistency. I really do enjoy the flavor of whole butter, though.

    Rar8888, great to hear.

    Mar 15, 2010 at 10:50 PM

  • Dear Eric, thanks very much for inviting me to supply an ossi buchi recipe. I am currently assembling the recipe on a separate file. To which address should I send it?

    Mar 16, 2010 at 7:11 AM

  • Snooth User: screenfood
    164727 14

    @Eric: I'd be insanely grateful, thanks! Very interested in how you prepare the stock and what mushrooms you used for your photo.

    Mar 16, 2010 at 12:32 PM


    - 4 ossi buchi
    - 1 or 2 carrots
    - 1 stick of celery
    - 1 medium onion
    - 1 good handful of parsley
    - 2 or 3 flavoursome tomatoes
    - herbs
    - seasonings
    - 1 half stock cube
    - 1 large glass white wine
    - lemon zest
    - 2 or 3 cloves garlic

    The pan should be about 25 cm in diameter, not very deep, with a lid. Heat a tablespoon of oil and brown the ossi buchi. Remove, scrape the pan to detach the crumbs of meat, and put in the onion, carrot, celery, parsley and garlic (reserve a little of these last two), adding a further drop of oil if need be. The vegetables must be cut up, but not too finely; they should be just melted, not browned. Replace the meat, add the wine, turn up the heat and allow to boil for half a minute. Now reduce the heat and add the tomatoes (cut up, they need not be skinned), a good pinch of coarse salt, a few peppercorns roughly bruised, a bayleaf, a little thyme or marjoram. Cover and leave to simmer very gently for a couple of hours. Scrape the bottom of the pan frequently to ensure against sticking. If the material threatens to dry up, add a little water as required. The meat is done when a skewer or toothpick can pierce it easily. The marrow in the bone should remain intact.
    Remove the meat, throw away the herbs, and put the vegetables and liquid through the medium plate of the mouli-légumes (not a liquidizer) into a vessel (earthenware, porcelain, metal) in which the dish will be served and which can go on direct heat. Return the meat to the thick sauce so obtained and reheat gently, tasting for seasoning. When ready, sprinkle with a little lemon zest, garlic and parsley, all very very finely chopped. This is the ‘gremolata’.
    The dish can be served with any starch to mop up the juice: boiled rice, mashed potato, polenta. Best of all is a saffron-tinted risotto — the brick red of the sauce makes a wonderful contrast with the yellow rice.
    Any leftover sauce may be used to dress some tagliatelle.
    A white wine to accompany it should be fairly aggressive. Ditto a rosé. A lightish red would be nice.

    Mar 16, 2010 at 6:26 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
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    That works Timothy, thanks for sharing. Looks good.

    Mar 16, 2010 at 6:56 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
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    This is something of a lazy man's mushroom risotto. The classic way would be to prepare a mushroom stock but this is a great cheat that will fool even the best of us. Give it a try and you'll understand...

    Mushroom Risotto

    Serves 3 - 4

    6 cups vegetable stock
    8 tbls. sweet butter (cubed)
    1 shallot (fine dice)
    1 ½ cups risotto rice (Arborio is fine, but I prefer Carnaroli)
    ½ cup white wine (Try using the same white you plan to pair with the risotto.)
    1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
    ½ cup dry Marsala
    1 Tbls. chopped sage
    1 Tbls. chopped rosemary
    1-pound crimini mushrooms (washed and sliced cross-wise into ¼ inch slices)
    salt and pepper (to taste)

    Prepare all of your ingredients before you start. You’ll need one pot for the stock and one sauté pan and one saucepan.

    Place the stock into a pot and bring to a simmer.

    In a sauté pan melt 2 Tbls. of butter over low - medium flame. The butter will foam up and when the foam settles, add the mushrooms. Season with a healthy pinch of salt and toss well to coat with the butter. Allow this mixture to cook for about 3 - 4 minutes. Next add ½ the sage and ½ the rosemary. Toss again and raise the heat to medium.

    Add the ½ cup of Marsala and bring to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, lower the heat to low and allow this mixture to simmer

    In a saucepan, melt two tablespoons of butter, over a low - medium flame, and then add the shallots. Season the shallots lightly with salt. Sweat until translucent, for about three minutes, but do not allow them to take on any color.

    When the shallots are almost ready, add another tablespoon of butter. Once the butter has melted, add the rice and bring the flame up to medium. Toss the rice in the butter and shallot mixture while stirring regularly. Do not allow the rice to take on any color or stick to the pan. This should take only one or two minutes.

    Now add the wine and stir. The wine will begin to cook off and, once the rice begins to look dry, add your first ladle full of stock and stir. I like to set a timer for 17 minutes at this point, as a guide, but not as the set time for completion.

    Continue to stir, keeping the rice moving around the pan. Regularly stir the rice, from the outside of the pan, into the center. As the rice begins to look dry again, add more stock and continue to stir.

    Meanwhile, keep an eye on the mushrooms. If they have shrunken and the liquid in the pan has begun to dry, you can remove them from the flame and stir in the last of the sage and rosemary. Take ¾ of the mushrooms out of the pan and set them in a warm area to rest (I like to keep an oven at 200 degrees to hold items). Now ladle some stock into the sauté pan, where the mushrooms were cooking, and stir up any bits from the pan. Spill the contents from the pan, into the risotto and stir.

    When the timer reads two minutes, you should begin to taste the risotto for doneness. Season lightly with salt, but remember that the Parmigiano Reggiano is salty as well, so season very lightly. Once your rice is al dente, soft with a slight snap to the bite, turn off the heat. You may have a little stock left; hold it for now. Now add the last tablespoon of butter and the ½ cup of Parmigiano Reggiano and stir into the rice until combined. If the rice is too dry, add a little bit more hot stock and stir.

    Taste the risotto, one last time for seasoning. Plate into warmed bowls. Garnish with the reserved mushrooms in a small pile at the center (a good trick is to use a 1 ½ cookie cutter, to pile the garnish into. Then pull the cookie cutter straight up and the garnish will form a perfect pile. Clean the rim of your plate and serve.

    Mar 27, 2010 at 3:51 PM

  • Snooth User: screenfood
    164727 14

    Thanks Eric, sounds like the perfect simple soul-food.

    Mar 27, 2010 at 4:16 PM

  • Snooth User: SPacific
    444872 3

    On my last visit to Italy I had a meal which included a risotto dish that was made with gargonzola and mushrooms. It was deliriously delicious and unforgettable. Do you have a recipe for this combination of ingredients?

    Apr 09, 2010 at 2:54 AM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
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    gorgonzola, yes, but not with mushrooms. However the combination sounds really good. If you are a fan of gorgonzola than you may want to try a straight gorgonzola risotto first. I'll see if I can dig up the recipe, I haven't made it in many years.

    Apr 24, 2010 at 12:00 PM

  • The best risotto in the world is made with lots of patience and a good glass of wine to drink while you do all the stirring.A knob of butter added at the end makes it look amazing.Forget the diet!!!!!!!!!!

    Apr 24, 2010 at 1:52 PM

  • Snooth User: haroldh
    472141 2

    I'm surprised that after, living in Italy for 40 years, Timothy has not learned that the word is "esperto" not "experto". On the other hand, he certainly seems to be very much at home with la cucina italiana.

    Oct 01, 2010 at 11:59 AM

  • Snooth User: liamok
    441168 10

    If risotto is used as a primo piatto, as MARCELAGB3 informs us, what's the best main course? It seems redundant to follow rice with pasta. Please include the gorgonzola risotto recipe with your reply, if possible!

    Sep 09, 2011 at 6:50 PM

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