Lidia Bastianich’s Secrets — and a Few Easy Recipes — for Great Risotto

Celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich is known for her elegantly rustic Italian recipes that just about any home cook can master.

From casseroles to desserts and more, the popular PBS culinary host has done it all. Here are just a few of her creative spins on one of Italy’s most beloved dishes, risotto. 

The risotto recipes listed here call for arborio rice and can be found in Bastianich’s cookbook, Lidia’s a Pot, a Pan, and a Bowl: Simple Recipes for Perfect Meals.

Celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich wears a pink blouse in this photograph.
Lidia Bastianich | Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

The chef’s tips for a great risotto

As Bastianich told Epicurious, perfect risotto doesn’t just happen. Here are a few of the rules the chef follows for an exquisitely creamy bowl of the popular dish.

Wine is important in risotto: “Before any other liquid, I’m going to add white wine,” she explained. “The rice is thirsty, it’s going to pull it right in.”

Also, it’s essential that the liquid you use to make the risotto is good and hot, she added. “When the rice has absorbed all of the wine, and the kernel itself has flavor, you add the stock. It’s important the stock is at the same temperature,” she said. “You’re trying to get those starches out and they’re coming out, if you put cold stock you coagulate that. You’re defeating your purpose of creaminess.”

Bastianich also suggests cooking the risotto in a wide-bottomed pan: “A nice, wide pan is recommended with a thick base so that the heat is spread evenly. You want evaporation to happen.”

Bastianich’s Summer Tomato and Basil Risotto with Mozzarella

While most risottos require a good amount of liquid, this recipe, Bastianich says in her cookbook, “starts with a little less hot liquid than my other recipes for the same amount of rice.”

The reason for this is the inclusion of juicy tomatoes. “You’ll … get extra liquid when you cook the tomatoes in the pan, creating a rich tomato flavor in a short amount of time.”

The chef also includes chopped shallots, dry white wine, ripe small tomatoes, peperoncino flakes, hot chicken broth, diced fresh mozzarella, chopped fresh basil leaves, grated Grana Padano, and unsalted butter.

Lidia Bastianich’s Mushroom and Sausage Risotto

Earthy and meaty, this risotto, Bastianich writes, uses “any combination of hearty mushrooms.” She cautions against the use of portobellos, however, “because their dark gills could muddy the color of the risotto.”

Also making an appearance in this satisfying dish is sweet Italian sausage removed from its casings, thinly sliced leeks, chopped fresh thyme, dry white wine, sliced mixed wild mushrooms, hot chicken broth, unsalted butter, and grated pecorino.

She writes in the cookbook that “the process should take about 18 minutes from the first addition of liquid, with the final product still a bit loose, but not runny.”

The chef’s Risotto Cakes

This recipe may not exactly be for risotto, but it is a clever use for leftovers of the rice dish.

As the chef says, “If you’re lucky enough to have leftover risotto in the fridge, you can have this dinner on the table in no time. I add grated zucchini for color, but you can also leave it out, especially if you’re starting with a vegetable-heavy risotto.”

The ingredients for this recipe are entirely up to your preferences and risotto ingredients, but Bastianich’s cakes feature zucchini, grated pecorino cheese, an egg, chopped fresh Italian parsley, chopped chives, and fine dry bread crumbs.

The Lidia’s Kitchen host recommends serving the cakes on a mixed salad dressed with vinegar, mustard, and olive oil.

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