Learning to make risotto is sort of like learning to ride a bicycle. At first, it's a little scary and you may crash a few times but once you've mastered the technique it's very easy.
There are tons of recipes and ingredients you can add in, but start off with the basics and try other recipes after you've mastered the technique.
First, use quality ingredients:
1. Arborio rice (unwashed - you need the starch for creaminess)
2. Good stock (chicken, vegetable, seafood, etc) - never plain water
3. Good olive oil (don't break the bank, its for cooking, but don't use cheap oil either)
4. Real butter, not margarine (some traditionalists use only olive oil, no butter)
5. Freshly grated, good quality parmesan cheese (from the deli, grated to order or at home, not pre-grated)
6. A decent dry white wine
Recipe: Basic Risotto
4 cups stock - chicken, beef, vegetable or seafood as appropriate
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil (if not using butter, increase to 4-6 tablespoons)
1 onion finely chopped (medium or large, to taste). I like a lot of onion in mine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups arborio rice (about 1lb)
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
First, heat both the stock and the wine, separately, to avoid shocking the rice when you add the liquids or it may not cook through, remaining hard in the center.
In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium low heat, then add onion, garlic and celery, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, and cook slowly about 10 to 15 minutes until completely limp but not browned.
Remove the aromatics from the saute pan, add a little more oil and/or butter if needed, then add the rice and turn up the heat to medium-high. Saute the rice, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes until it becomes translucent.
Add the wine and keep stirring until it mostly evaporates, about 5 minutes.
Turn down the heat to medium low and add a cup or so of the warm stock along with a pinch or two of salt. Stir, at simmer until the stock is absorbed, then add another cup or so. Keep repeating the process until the rice is fully cooked. It should be soft but not mushy. The entire process of cooking the rice will take about 15 minutes, or perhaps as much as 20 minutes, depending on the rice and on the final texture you prefer. A proper risotto should be creamy and soft but never runny nor dry and crumbly.
Add more salt and black pepper, to taste. Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the butter and the parmesan chesse.
Cover the pot and let it stand for two or three minutes, then serve immediately.
NOTE: There is no exact measurement for the liquid. The risotto is done when it has the right texture. You may have leftover stock. If you don't have enough stock, add boiling water.
"Iím going to break one of the rules of the trade here. Iím going to tell you some of the secrets of improvisation. Just remember ó itís always a good idea to follow the directions exactly the first time you try a recipe. But from then on, youíre on your own." - James Beard