Risotto is traditionally made with the short-grain rice of the Po Valley. There are three main rice varieties: arborio, with its large plump grains that produce a starchy risotto; carnaroli, smaller grains that produce a looser (wavy) risotto; and vialone nano, with firm grains that cook up soft with a kernel of chewiness in the center, just the way Italians like it.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon rind, optional
- 1 cup arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano rice
- 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
- Salt and pepper
Fill a medium pot with about 5 cups water and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and keep the water hot.
Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy deep saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir the preserved lemon rind, if using, into the onions then add the rice, stirring until everything is coated with butter.
Add 1/2 cup of the simmering water, stirring constandy, to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Push any rice that crawls up the sides back down into the liquid. When the rice has absorbed all the water, add another 1/2 cup of water. Continue this process until you have added most of the water, about 20 minutes.
Taste the rice, it is done when it is tender with a firm center. The fully cooked risotto should be moist but not soupy. Add the parmigiano and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and stir until it has melted into the rice. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
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