risotto, the enigma

When I started reading food blogs, I noticed that I saw a lot more risotto than expected. I’d never had risotto, much less cooked it. I’ve always imagined it to be a dish made by either gourmet chefs or Italian grandmas… two of the best kinds of cooks in the world. It also frightened me that the dish is so involved — ladle in brother, stir the rice, watch it absorb, ladle, stir, watch, ladle, is that Teen Mom on the TV?, go upstairs, oh my god is something burning? Most recipes I cook are not very time-intensive, not because I don’t have the time, but rather because I lack the attention span. Because of these reasons, I left risotto to be something real chefs cooked.

And that worked for a while. But you can only restrain the body’s primal urge for risotto for a short time.

So here’s my risotto experiment. I have to say, it was pretty time-intensive and potentially expensive, so not the best any-night college meal, but I’ll definitely keep it in my repertoire for when I have friends over. I also used cheap parmesan and mozzarella instead of good parmesan and good chevre, so it didn’t taste as fancy as I would have expected. However, the end result was exactly what I wanted: a warm, carby, cheesy, delicious dish that paired perfectly with a big green salad.

Mushroom-Red Pepper Risotto, adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Serves 8

1 3/4 c. arborio rice
2 c. sliced mushrooms
3/4 c. dry white wine
8 c. chicken broth
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 whole red bell peppers, diced
1 small shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. grated parmesan
3/4 c. grated mozzarella
salt to taste
1/2 tsp. turmeric

Bring broth to a simmer in a medium pan.


In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and cook until soft. Set aside. Add a little more olive oil, then diced onions, shallots, and garlic and cook until translucent, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add red peppers and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add uncooked rice and stir for a minute or two, allowing it to be coated with the other ingredients. Pour in wine and cook for a minute or two. Now, start adding broth a cup to a cup and a half at a time, stirring gently and allowing each addition to absorb into the rice. Repeat for 25 to 30 minutes, or until rice is al dente. (You might not need to use all the broth.) At the end, stir in a little more liquid and turn off heat. Stir in turmeric. Add cheeses and stir.


Agh! Oh my gosh I almost forgot to talk about my birthday!! I went to dinner at Z Tejas (after reading my friend Sierra’s review of it) with my family and Preston. It was wonderful and delicious. Everyone got me wonderful presents, most of them centered around the kitchen — a microplane grater, a new y-peeler and julienne (I literally peeled an entire potato into little strips when I got this), a bread maker (I have already bookmarked about 3000 bread recipes… get ready for ’em), wall art for my dining room, a gorgeous apron that I will soon post picture of, Longhorn cups, a Bed Bath and Beyond gift card that I used to buy a bread pan… I’m probably forgetting something, but suffice it to say that my kitchen is a very happy place right now. And I’m 20, which is old, so expect to see a lot more prune recipes and references to Matlock on this thing.

my wonderful, supportive, hilarious 'rents

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About Natalie (The First Kitchen)

I like to eat lots of plants, bake cookies, and explore Austin.
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6 Responses to risotto, the enigma

  1. Your other devoted follower who isn't Brianna or Jeff says:

    I have some really, really delicious risotto recipes if you want them, but one of them has pine nuts which are SO expensive, so I suggest you get creative (read: steal) when including them. but it’s a pesto one. I know how you like that pesto.

  2. Brianna says:

    Who IS this mysterious person with the many risotto recipes?!!
    Pine nuts are indeed expensive. I always get my parents to buy them, justifying that I will soon make pesto. Then I can do whatever I want with them.

  3. Tolly says:

    20, old? *Hilarious.* :)

    Oh my goodness, I love homemade risotto. Such a worthwhile indulgence. The comfy, melt-in-your-mouth consistency reminds me a bit of gnocchi, if you’ve ever had that other famous Italian dish. It’s hard to find good gnocchi in Austin, and even harder to make it. Maybe you’ll take on the challenge one day!

    So cute about your birthday presents. Your friends and family know you too well!

    Also….don’t know if you ever Google your little blog, but I’ve been meaning to tell you I gave a little shout-out to The First Kitchen a few days ago. :) Love your blog and I always will!

    http://www.readthehorn.com/the_horn/life_arts/3562/eavesdropper_makes_waves_in_austin_blog_network

    (Scroll to the bottom-ish)

    • Aw, Tolly, thank you! I love the interview… I totally eavesdrop in coffee shops/restaurants/the library all the time.

      I loooove gnocchi. The best gnocchi I’ve had in Austin has been at Mandola’s, but I think my next kitchen investment will be a potato ricer so I can make my own.

  4. Uncle Robert says:

    Hey Nat. Your risotto looks amazing! Yah, the watchful stirring is sometimes a nuisance, but not as bad as polenta (making polenta makes my arms sore!). The thing I look for in risotto is the spread factor. The spread factor is how the risotto spreads after plating. It should “relax” and ease out of its original puddle. This means the risotto isn’t too tight and has just the right amount of creaminess. If you ever run across truffles (the mushroom variety, not the chocolate variety), use them in your risotto. You will weep because its so good.

  5. gabriellemarielopez says:

    My boyfriend always jokes about how on cooking reality tv (competitions like top chef, etc.) they always make risotto….. always risotto!

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