A Girl & Her Food: Chef John Coletta's 10 Golden Rules to Achieve a Perfect Risotto


Chef John Coletta's 10 Golden Rules to Achieve a Perfect Risotto

For many home cooks, making a successful risotto can seem like an unattainable goal. So often, people get frustrated with the dish to the point of culinary surrender. I gave up trying to make risotto, constantly beating myself up about how I couldn't achieve this simple dish. During all my risotto attempts, I would remind myself that practice makes perfect and to be paitent.  Failing each time miserably, I retired my risotto spoon. I was therefore thrilled to be invited by Chef John Coletta of Quartino's, as he is one of the best Italian chefs in Chicago, to learn everything about risotto. 

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We had such a wonderful afternoon and he's truly talented. Thank you Chef John for spending time with me and teaching me to master the golden rules of making a perfect risotto. What Chef Coletta wants people to know, is that making a beautiful risotto dish at home is actually very simple.  So with these tips, any home cook can make a restaurant-quality risotto at home. For dinner tonight, I will dust off my risotto spoon and execute making a perfect risotto. What's your favorite risotto to make?

10 Golden Rules for perfect risotto

Uno: Carnaroli riso is the most versatile and very accessible. Vialone Nano riso is another great choice, although not easily found. Arborio riso is best in the preparation of soups or frying. Chef John gifted me cans of acquerello il riso.

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Due: The pot should be a sauce pan at least two inches in height, preferably copper or stainless steel.

Tre: Using a risotto spoon is key. The hole in the center of the spoon provides room for rice to pass through it as the risotto is stirred. This allows for a smoother, creamier end result. The spoon should be made from beach wood.
You can purchase one at Quartino's for $10. 
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Quattro: Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil is required for the best results when toasting the riso.

Cinque: Select a very good Italian wine. A low quality wine will only produce poor results.

Sei: A very good natural broth made from meat, fish or vegetable is essential.

Sette:The flame should be on low to medium allowing for a slight simmer. A violent boil will produce uneven doneness.

Otto: The risotto is ready when the rice grains do not contain their white inner souls. Al Dente is the goal.

Nove: The addition of butter and cheese occur when the pot containing the riso is removed from the stove.

Dieci: The risotto waves known as all"onda indicate you have properly executed the perfect balance.

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Recipe by Chef John Coletta, featured at Quartino Ristorante, Published on DiningOut.com

For the risotto:

5 cups basic vegetable broth
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely-minced white onion
2 tsp finely minced garlic
1 1/2 cups carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Pinot Grigio)
1 cup medium diced zucchini
2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, medium dice
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
fine sea salt to taste
fine white pepper to taste 

For the shrimp:

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup shrimp (21/25 count peeled, deveined, and split)
1/8 cup dry white wine

For the risotto:
Bring the vegetable broth to a simmer in a heavy-bottom pot. In another heavy-bottom pot, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic and place over medium heat. Stir this mixture using a wooden spoon until the onions become translucent and tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add the carnaroli rice and continue to stir using the wooden spoon for 1 minute. Add the white wine and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated. Add the zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes and stir continuously.
Using a 2-ounce ladle, gradually add all vegetable broth with one hand and stir using a wooden spoon with the other hand. Continue to cook and stir this mixture until the vegetable broth has been absorbed by the rice kernels. Reduce flame to low and cook for about 18 minutes, stirring the entire time.

For the shrimp:

Place a heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Add the shrimp and wine and simmer until almost cooked. Allow this mixture to rest until plating.

To serve:
Once the rice is al dente (firm to the bite), remove the pot from the stove and add the butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese while continuing to stir, forming a creamy consistency. Plate the risotto and top with the cooked shrimp. Serve at once.