THE WASHINGTON POST – Risotto is renowned as a comforting, classic Italian dish. But its reputation for being fussy and high-maintenance has prevented many a home cook from attempting it at all, let alone for a weeknight dinner. Risotto must be sufficiently saucy but not soupy; it requires frequent stirring for half an hour; and needs to be eaten immediately once ready because it starts to solidify minutes later.
When I told a neighbour I was working on a risotto recipe, he said, “That’s what either sinks every cooking show contestant or delivers them a win.” I can’t seem to manage my time to include regular television-watching, so I’ll take his word for it.
To make risotto, you need a short-grain rice, such as arborio (most easily found), carnaroli (often preferred by chefs and referred to as the “caviar of rice”) or vialone nano, though Spanish bomba rice often used for paella and sushi rice also can work well. Short-grain rice, because of its higher starch content, tends to absorb less liquid, and allows for a creamy porridge to form. Because you want as much starch as possible for the creamiest result, you do not rinse the rice.
So how does one make risotto a weeknight indulgence with minimal effort?
Enter the mighty Instant Pot. While the traditional risotto recipe requires ample hands-on time, the pressure cooker method is its polar opposite. Saute a few ingredients for several minutes, toast the rice, add the liquid, seal and walk away.
Not accounting for the time it takes for the machine to come to pressure (which can take anywhere from five to 10 minutes), the risotto, once sealed, takes six minutes to cook – just enough time to pour yourself a drink and throw together a quick salad for a meal that balances your carb intake with some crunchy vegetables.
You’ll find differing opinions online and in books on the best way to approach this expedited method. Some prefer to warm up their broth before adding it to the rice, but I’ve always used it at room temperature (or from the fridge) and have never run into any trouble.
If you’re familiar with the traditional method of making risotto, remember that making it in a pressure cooker means you need about half as much broth (think four cups of broth for about two cups of rice in the Instant Pot versus the typical eight cups of broth for the same amount of rice if cooked on the stove top). The pressure cooker doesn’t allow for evaporation, so it requires less liquid.
The Instant Pot risotto has become my family’s regular go-to weeknight dinner in a pinch. When I feel like I can’t muster much of a meal, I throw this together and 20 minutes later we’re sitting down for dinner. Our favourite version is one with peas and Parmesan cheese. I use frozen peas (because I always have a bag on hand), and the heat of the cooked risotto makes them warm and creamy – no defrosting necessary – but still verdant and fresh-tasting.
If I’m feeling fancy, I swap out the peas for a few generous pinches of saffron soaked in a couple of tablespoons of hot water or, with the summer upon us, render some pancetta and stir in fresh corn cut off the cob.
In the winter months, when I need a bit of sunshine, I upgrade my risotto with fresh herbs, such as chervil and parsley, and spike the whole thing with fresh lemon juice right before serving. Even though the meal comes together in minutes, the warm bowl feels both nourishing and luxurious. And in the real-life of struggle to get dinner on the table, this risotto always makes me feel like a winner.
INSTANT POT RISOTTO
Active: 25 minutes | Total: 30 minutes
Here’s a traditional, beloved Italian dish made in a pressure cooker in minutes with no stirring required. The resulting risotto is every bit as creamy as one made on the stove top but with far less effort and time. While arborio and carnaroli rice are most popular and traditional for risotto, it can also be made with vialone nano, bomba and sushi rice if you’re in a pinch.
Three tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
One small yellow onion, finely chopped
Three medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
One and 3/4 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
1/3 cup dry white vinegar
Two teaspoons kosher salt
Four cups chicken or vegetable broth
2/3 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Two tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Set your multicooker to saute and heat two tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it softens and becomes translucent, about four minutes.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about one minute.
Add the remaining one tablespoon of oil and the rice. Cook, stirring, until the rice is lightly toasted and smells nutty, three to eight minutes.
Stir in the vinegar and salt and cook until the vinegar has evaporated, about one minute. Stir in the broth, then cover, set the steam valve to pressure (or sealing) and turn to high. After the cooker reaches high pressure, which takes five to 10 minutes, cook for six minutes.
Release the pressure manually, then stir in the peas, cheese and butter, if using, and continue to stir until the risotto is creamy and the peas are just warmed through, about two minutes.
Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Divide among four bowls, top with more cheese, if using, and garnish with the parsley.
For pancetta and corn risotto: Render four ounces diced pancetta until crisp before cooking the onion; substitute the kernels from two ears of corn for the peas.
For lemon and herb risotto: In place of peas, stir in 1/2 cup chopped tender herbs, such as basil, tarragon, chervil or parsley. Season to taste with fresh lemon juice.
Calories: 525; Total Fat: 15g; Saturated Fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 9mg; Sodium: 978mg; Carbohydrates: 81g; Dietary Fibre: 2g; Sugars: 3g; Protein: 16g.