Risotto: The Rice on the Rise

Dairy Free Nut Free Fish Free Soy Free Gluten Free 

Risotto seems to be popping up everywhere, from supermarket shelves to restaurant menus. And it no surprise why this classic rice is on the rise - there is nothing more comforting than a creamy bowl of piping hot risotto on a cold, mid-winter night. 

For those avoiding gluten and common food allergens the popularity of risotto is good news. A risotto dish is now frequently found as a staple on Italian restaurant menus, and is a great substitution for those avoiding pasta. However, be aware that many restaurants include ready-made broths that contains gluten, soy and other allergens in their risotto dishes, making it important to double check all ingredients with the chef before ordering.

Making gluten-free and allergen-free risotto meals at home is inexpensive and versatile. The best part about risotto is that it can be a simple meal made with just a few ingredients; or once you have mastered the technique in preparation, you can add in vegetables, seafood and meat, making it customized it to your family’s allergies and gluten intolerances.

The success in making risotto is in the correct ingredients and technique, including the following:

The Rice: Risotto translates to “little rice”, which is an indication of the type of rice that must be used to ensure a perfect dish. White, fat, starchy, short-grain rice that is grown in Northern Italy is the key to the creaminess of the risotto. This short-grain type of rice absorbs far more liquid than the standard long-grain type. Arborio rice is a short-grain rice which is widely available and works best for risotto.

The Prep:
Never wash or rinse the rice prior to cooking. This would essentially make the starch on the rice disappear, which is crucial for the distinguishing creamy texture. 

Make sure that you have all the ingredients washed, chopped and prepped prior to starting the cooking process.

The Tools:
Use a large pan when making Risotto. Use at least a 4 quart pan, and remember that the rice will at least triple in size once done cooking. Also, make sure you have plenty of room for the required stirring!

The Liquid:
If the recipe includes wine, make sure that you add it before any other liquids to fully integrate into the rice. Incorporate other liquids such as water and broth a little at a time, allowing the grains of rice to swell before adding the next ¼ cup or so.   

The Stirring: Risotto must be attended to during the whole cooking process, by persistently stirring and ensuring that the rice never becomes dry.

The Variations:
Risotto is a great receiver of flavor. Use vegetables, meats, seafood and herbs that fit your family’s tastes and food allergies. Experiment and have fun – the variations are endless!

The Final Touch:
The final touch on most risotto dishes are a dab of butter or olive oil and a fresh shaving of parmesan or other Italian cheese. This tops off the creaminess and flavors of the risotto, which should be served… and enjoyed… immediately upon adding these finishing touches!


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