The Prep Mistake You Need To Avoid When Making Risotto

Risotto is the quintessential comfort food. Rice, cheese, butter, and broth are really all it takes to make this tasty, hearty dish, though there are plenty of variations out there. Yet this few-ingredient dinner is known as being famously difficult and high maintenance, requiring constant stirring, adding ingredients just so, and attention. But how can a dish that is basically just slow-cooked rice baffle home cooks? 

In his new book "Simple Fancy," Jason Santos shares his secret to nailing risotto every time and embracing its simplicity. "You add a ladle, let the rice absorb, add another ladle, and next thing you know, you're spending a half an hour making risotto" (via Yahoo!). 

But, oftentimes, as your rice is drying up, you realize you're out of hot broth or haven't opened the bottle of wine yet, leading to a frenzied mess and bad risotto. The biggest and easiest mistake to fix when it comes to making risotto? Not spending enough time on the prep.

Devoting a few extra minutes to prep before you start the sautéing can really take the stress and overwhelm out. That way, you aren't rushing to cube more butter or shred cheese in between stirring. We've got several tips to incorporate into your risotto night that will simplify the process and will help you master the basics so you can graduate to more adventurous variations of the beloved rice dish.

Devoting time to prep is the key to good risotto

Take a few minutes before turning the stove on to get all of the ingredients you'll need from the cupboard and fridge. Mise en place is essential for home chefs and professionals alike, says Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. For the most basic risotto, you'll want Arborio rice, chicken stock or broth, Parmesan cheese (go for a block instead of pre-shredded), olive oil or butter, and salt. White wine is also a common addition, but white wine vinegar or a comparable acid can work in a pinch. Shallots or mild onions are also common in simple risottos. 

Next, make use of that measuring cup set and your Pyrex dishes. Portion out everything, especially liquids in advance. If you're using bouillon cubes or paste, mix it with hot water ahead of time so you aren't scrambling to add it when the rice is drying up. Finely dice the onion if using. And definitely get a head start on that Parm brick — shred more than you think you'll need, as it's the main source of salt and umami in the dish, and you'll use it in the cooking process as well as a topping.