I’m wary of the kitchen sink approach to risotto - swamping the essential taste of rice, butter and stock with ingredients more suited to a pasta sauce. But there are some flavours that seem made for it - porcini in winter, truffles when you can afford them, saffron any time and fresh herbs in summer. Rosemary and parsley is a favourite combination, but mint, chervil, dill, rocket, basil and sweet marjoram, are all good, alone or in various combinations. The herbs should be chopped (or in the case of basil, torn) just before using. Rosemary is the only one I add early on rather than at the end of cooking, With the wine aim, as always, for milder flavoured whites such as pinot grigio or Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne, rather than strong flavours and high acidity (eg sauvignon blanc).
125g butter, preferably unsalted
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
250g Canaroli, Arborio or Vialone Nano rice
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
125 ml dry white wine
1.2 litres of hot stock, preferably home-made chicken
freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp of flat-leaf parsley (or chervil)
45 g fresh parmesan
Melt 100g of the butter in a thick-based pan. Cook the onion gently until it is soft, making sure it doesn’t catch. This can easily take 15 minutes or more.
Add the rice and stir to coat all the grains with butter. Stir in the rosemary. Add the wine, stir and turn the heat up to medium. Cook, bubbling but not boiling hard, until the wine has been absorbed.
Add a ladleful of stock and when it has been absorbed, add another ladleful and so on, stirring periodically to check that it’s not sticking. After 20 minutes, you should have used most of the stock. Taste the risotto and if the rice isn’t ready, carry on cooking, adding recently boiled water if you run out of stock.
Just before the rice is done, chop the parsley. Season the risotto as necessary (it will depend on your stock) and stir in the parsley and remaining butter. Grate 45g of parmesan and stir it in. Serve immediately.
Photograph by Joanna Simon