Rice...the Italian way

It's easy to make risotto - when you know how. Italian-born cookery writer Valentina Harris lets you into the secrets of her homeland's signature rice dish, including choosing the best varieties of rice and the importance of using the right stock. We bring you her step-by-step guide to perfect risotto...

For Italians, especially those in northern Italy where the dish has its origins, risotto is such an essential part of the cuisine that they have developed many rice varieties especially to make the dish.The most basic rule for anyone making risotto for the first time is that you cannot make it without the correct rice.

The most common risotto rice is Arborio. This is the best all-rounder. Waitrose also stocks two others: Carnaroli and Vialone Nano, both under the Riso Gallo brand name. Carnaroli has the biggest and fattest grain - which means the rice is less likely to overcook, keeps its shape better and generally gives very good results, even if you have not cooked risotto before. In Italy, this rice is reserved for special occasions as it is considered to be the most precious. Vialone Nano rice has the smallest, hardest grain, which takes longer to cook. It is the rice preferred and most used by Venetians.

Take stock

Once you have the correct rice, the next thing you'll need is a good broth or stock - which should taste delicious enough to sip from a cup. In an ideal world, fresh home-made stock is the best option. However, real life being what it is, many of us simply don't have time to make our own stock. Fresh stock is available at Waitrose and is excellent for making risotto. It is better not to use a stock cube (although this is permissible in an emergency).

Armed with these two basic ingredients, you are ready to start cooking this truly great dish. Once you start to follow the recipe, you will see that, contrary to popular belief, risotto is indeed very simple to make.

Recipes

Butterflied Tiger Prawn, Fennel and Orange Risotto

Delia's Seafood risotto

Asparagus, pea & broad bean risotto  

Chicken, lemon and tarragon risotto