Impress with this Low-Stress Risotto Recipe


Risotto is a dish that will impress without an extensive grocery list. (Courtesy of Kari White/The Fordham Ram)

While most of college cuisine consists of food meant to satisfy and satiate, there do come moments when you want to impress someone with your culinary craft. The last two articles have described easy ways to better cheap food, but this edition will explore how to make a meal from scratch for someone you want to impress. Whether it be a group of friends, a date or visiting parents, there will always come a reason to have a recipe for a cheap, easy meal that can still make someone laud you with compliments. My suggestion is risotto. A creamy dish consisting of rice, broth and a little bit of wine, it lends itself well to various taste palettes and creative ingredient experimentation. My favorite risotto, which this article will describe, has very  few additions except for a few cloves of garlic and parmesan.

The recipe I used for this meal comes from Martha Stewart’s Parmesan Risotto, which can be found on her blog (she might have done a stint in jail, but this convict knows domestic bliss.) The recipe calls for arborio rice, chicken broth, two shallots, garlic, parmesan, white wine, olive oil, butter and a squeeze or two of lemon juice. I altered it slightly by opting for vegetable broth rather than chicken, which makes the dish vegetarian; using bottled lemon juice rather than squeezing a fresh lemon, let’s not break the bank; and using a yellow onion rather than a shallot, because my roommate had one already in the fridge. 

Like any meal, this one begins in the grocery store. Both of the times that I have made this recipe, I spent around $30. The first time I spent more, when I cooked for about eight people. However, as my friend and I were cooking together, we agreed to split the price. Therefore, both of us spent only about $15. The second time, when we cooked for only four, we spent much less. None of the ingredients cost much on their own, and all are common upon grocery store shelves. The only ingredient that I worried might elude us was arborio rice, and I have since noticed it on the shelves of Rams Deli. So, not elusive at all. At least not in the heart of Bronx’s Little Italy. 

Once you have all of your ingredients in your kitchen, you’ll need to get out two pots. Make sure the second one’s big, really big, because that’s what you’ll cook the risotto in. While you’re prepping your ingredients, heat up all six cups of your chosen broth (chicken or vegetable) in the smaller of the two pots. The idea is that the broth will cook the rice through, so make sure that it’s simmering if not boiling. 

As the broth heats up, prepare the garlic, onion and parmesan. Mince the garlic, dice the onion and grate the parmesan. Once the ingredients are prepped, turn the heat on underneath the larger pot and add the fats: butter and olive oil. After these get hot, toss in the garlic and onion. Let these cook on their own until the onions turn transparent. Bite back your tears as they cook, and, when they’re ready, throw in the rice. Stir the rice in, coating it in the garlic and onion mixture. Cook until the rice is semi-transparent, then start adding in the broth. This is where it gets labor intensive. I’d highly recommend stretching.

The first time, add a cup of hot, steaming broth to the pot. Stir the rice until it has completely absorbed the broth, and then add another half-cup. Continue to add a half-cup at a time, being careful not to add more broth until the rice has completely absorbed the last broth infusion. This step dominates most of this recipe’s cooking time, as it takes about twenty minutes for the risotto to absorb all six cups. Once it is done, however, all you have to do is mix in the grated parmesan and voila! Your surprisingly cheap and effectively fancy dish is complete. Throw it in a bowl, add a sprig of parsley and prepare for the praise. 

If you want to experiment with different types of risotto, you can add mushrooms, tomatoes, shrimp, pesto and the list goes on indefinitely. Ultimately, risotto is simply arborio rice, white wine and some sort of broth; you can add virtually anything to it. Lastly, I have also made this recipe without the addition of white wine, and, despite the fact that it is a defining facet of this dish, it tastes fine without it. If you’re underage or just not interested, you won’t miss out by forgoing that single ingredient. 

Both times I have made this dish, I’ve done so with the help of one of my closest friends. This was good, because she did all of the stirring. I just sat there and kept her company, occasionally pouring in another half-cup of vegetable broth when she asked for it. As I mentioned before, we only ever made this dish when we were having other people over for dinner. If you have not had the chance of cooking food for your roommates, friends and family, I would highly recommend it. I know it’s cheesy — pardon the pun — but cooking is love. Even if you are just adding a fried egg to instant ramen, intentionally using time to prepare good food is an act of love for yourself and others. If you can think of anything better than those moments when you are sharing a plate of good food, getting closer with people you’ve known for a few hours or a few years, please let me know what it is. Because I can’t think of anything. 

This dish costs, at most, $30, and takes about 30 minutes to make. Invite your friends over, light some candles, put on some fancy dinner music and show them how much you appreciate them with a bowl of garlicky, cheesy affection. They’ll be impressed, and you are under no obligation to tell them how easy it was to make. 

Because this dish does require a stovetop, two pots and a few knives, I’d rate it as…

Difficulty level: Walsh Hall