The Ingredient Traditional Risotto Never Uses

A classic Italian dish that tends to find itself on menus alongside pasta but never really gets the credit it deserves is risotto. Risotto is a labor of love, requiring constant stirring until the desired consistency is reached. While it's a simple dish that uses only a few ingredients, it does require quite a bit of time and attention. Cuisine At Home describes risotto perfectly as being "elegant without being complex." It's a creamy, comforting dish that exudes whatever flavor is included in that handful of ingredients. 

Made from short- or medium-grain, starchy rice and broth, risotto is versatile and can be easily flavored with aromatics, including onions cooked in butter or a bit of additional flavor from wine, herbs, and cheese (via Cuisine At Home). While the dish finds a way to become extremely creamy through its cooking method, one ingredient has found its way into modern-day recipes which traditionally was never used. For us, the fun in eating risotto is knowing the hard work that went into it, and this ingredient is kind of a cheat, so what is it?

A labor of love

If you've only eaten risotto, you might assume that cream is a crucial ingredient as it often has a creamy texture. This is not unlike the misapprehension about traditional carbonara. But while this ingredient can be added at the end for a touch of flavor, cream should never be used in the actual risotto-making process. Graeme Pallister, chef of 63 Tay Street related to The Courier that he was told, "if you need cream, you're not working hard enough!" This is because rather than cream, it should be the rice itself that creates the desired creamy texture of risotto (via Stella Culinary).

As mentioned, risotto is a dish that takes time, and it's this constant stirring and periodic addition of more stock that creates the creaminess. While stirring, the rice absorbs the liquid, and more and more broth gets added until the rice is al dente (via Taste of Home). It's during this process that the magic happens. As Stella Culinary explains, the creaminess comes from the starches being released from the rice as it cooks. Check out this recipe for more detailed tips on making creamy risotto at home.