Parmesan risotto

Parmesan risotto

Leiths How to Cook
Peter Cassidy


Quantity Ingredient
1 onion
100g unsalted butter
100g parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve (optional)
300g risotto rice, (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
150ml dry white wine
1.5-2 litres Chicken and veal stock
or 1.5-2 litres Vegetable stock
freshly ground black pepper


  1. Halve, peel and finely dice the onion. Melt half the butter in a large, shallow saucepan, add the onion and sweat over a low heat until completely soft but not coloured, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the Parmesan and set aside.
  2. Add the rice to the pan and fry gently, stirring until it has had a chance to heat up and every grain is coated in the butter. Add the wine and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed all the wine.
  3. Meanwhile, put the stock in a separate saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, then reduce the heat to as low as possible.
  4. Once the wine is absorbed, start adding the stock a small ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and gently, making sure each ladleful is absorbed before adding the next. Continue until the rice is just cooked, but still al dente, about 25 minutes. If the stock runs out before the rice is cooked, use a little boiling water.
  5. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the remaining butter and the Parmesan. Season to taste with pepper, and salt if required. Allow the risotto to stand, covered, for 5 minutes before serving, with extra grated Parmesan, if you like.


  • A traditional Italian risotto has a loose, almost sloppy texture and should give a little when plated. When left to stand before serving, your risotto will absorb more liquid, so make sure it is fluid otherwise it will become thick and heavy.


  • Saffron risotto (risotto Milanese): Add about 15 saffron strands to the hot stock and allow to infuse for 10 minutes before starting the risotto.

    Wild mushroom risotto: Add 15–20 g dried wild mushrooms to the stock, bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10–15 minutes. Strain the stock and return to the pan ready for making the risotto. Sauté the soaked mushrooms with 400 g mixed wild mushrooms in 50 g butter over a medium to high heat for 3–4 minutes, or until lightly browned and the excess water has been driven off. Stir into the risotto with the butter and Parmesan.

    Crab risotto: Use shellfish or fish stock rather than chicken and veal stock. Omit the Parmesan. Stir in 300 g prepared white crab meat once the rice is cooked, then remove from the heat, stir in the unsalted butter, season with salt and pepper and allow to stand as for the main recipe. Before serving, stir in 1–2 tablespoons finely chopped chives and a little finely grated lemon zest, and juice, to taste.

    Pea risotto: Omit the Parmesan. Make a pea purée by sweating 1 finely chopped shallot in 15 g butter, then add 200 ml chicken and veal stock and 400 g defrosted frozen peas. Add a little salt and pepper and simmer gently for 4–5 minutes until the peas are tender. Drain the peas and blend until completely smooth, adding a little of the cooking liquor if it is too thick. Pass through a sieve. The pea purée should be the consistency of Greek yoghurt. Stir this into the risotto, to taste, with 2 tablespoons mascarpone and the finely grated zest of ½ lemon. You can also stir in 50 g cooked petit pois before serving.

    Roast butternut squash risotto: Peel and deseed 1 large butternut squash. Grate one-third coarsely and set aside. Cut the rest into 2 cm chunks and toss these in enough olive oil to coat. Season well, spread out on a baking sheet and bake in an oven preheated to 200°C for 20–30 minutes, turning once, until golden and soft. Proceed as for the main recipe, cooking the grated squash in the butter with the onion. Stir 30 g unsalted butter into the finished risotto, followed by the roasted squash. Serve with extra Parmesan and fried sage leaves.
Leiths School of food and wine
cookery course
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