The Risotto Lidia Bastianich Says Is Great For Beginner Cooks

Lidia Bastianich — the Italian-American celebrity chef, author, and restaurateur — is full of advice to share with cooks of varying expert levels, including those who are just starting out in the kitchen. If you're a beginner cook and want to try out making a risotto. The chef noted that one of the most significant perks of risotto is just how versatile it is: You can pick and choose what type of protein you want (anything from shrimp to venison and so on and so forth will make for a great risotto) or you could make it completely vegetarian. However, risotto is also a dish that can certainly seem overwhelming and difficult to get just right. So Bastianich has some tips for you, such as which risotto to try first.

During an interview with Tasting Table, the celebrity chef recommended beginner cooks try making risotto alla Milanese, an Italian dish that Bastianich helped popularize in America, as their first risotto dish. Bastianich said, "Risotto alla Milanese is simple, straightforward. I would recommend vegetable risotto. ... Keep it in season. If it [is] fall or summer, butternut squash risotto. It's so delicious." Now that you have a kind of risotto in mind to try your hand at cooking, you can continue to follow Bastianich's advice on how to perfect that risotto. 

Mastering risotto will help develop your cooking skills

While speaking with Tasting Table, Bastianich explained how process of making risotto ties into practicing your technique in order to perfect a recipe. To begin with, not just any type of rice will do; you have to go with short-grain rice, such as carnaroli or arborio, as it will release the starches and makes the risotto creamy as it cooks. "Then you have to go through the process of toasting, cooking, and coaxing that starch out of the rice ... then slowly [add] a flavorful, hot stock. Bastianich continued, "All of that is a technique that makes the result creamy. The last step [is] mantecare, where you whip up a little bit of butter and cheese, and that brings everything together."

The chef also emphasized the importance of having a good stock. "If you want to keep it vegetarian, you make a good stock with all the leftovers — the top of the leeks, the top of some of the carrots." Then, if you're making the butternut squash risotto that Bastianich recommends, add the squash in once you begin to wet the rice with the stock. "The flavors come at the end when you do the mantecare, when the squash has released its flavors a little bit, and it's always broken down a little bit in the risotto. The rice has made its cream ... Then you put [in] your butter and cheese, and you should have a great risotto."