The first time I had risotto was at my Italian in-laws' house, so you can just imagine how good it was. After the first few luscious, creamy bites I was hooked and knew it was something I had to recreate at home. There was only a slight problem: risotto is a finicky dish that can easily give the most seasoned cook a difficult time, so to say I was intimidated is an understatement.
Armed with expert tips from my in-laws, specifically, "stir, stir, stir!", I attempted the quintessential Italian comfort dish with delicious results. My go-to recipe below is not only simple to master, but can even be prepared on a busy weeknight. It has everything you would want in a risotto; namely creaminess and depth of flavor, and can easily be adapted with other ingredients. Don't feel like shrimp? No, problem! Try a chicken and mushroom combination, or scallops with asparagus. The variations are endless.
A couple things to note about the below recipe: there is A LOT of butter incorporated at the end. Let's just say this is not a recipe you want to be cooking if you're doing the Whole30 program, ok? But every once in a while, when you want a sinfully-indulgent, stick-to-your-ribs dinner, this is it. You can, of course, adjust the amount you add to your liking, but it's risotto; it's supposed to be decadent. And, lastly, please for the love of all things holy DO NOT use pre-grated parmesan (the Italian Gods will cry). In this case freshly-grated parm is best and will really make the whole dish sing. For wine pairing, this partners very well with a lightly oaked Chardonnay or Pinot Gris.
Below, is the recipe for my favorite (and easy!) shrimp and pea risotto:
Easy Shrimp and Pea Risotto
Serves 6 as an appetizer or 4 as an entree.
Adapted from chef Shaun Zwarun's recipe for Nova Scotia lobster risotto.
4 cups stock (chicken, fish or vegetable)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
1 bag (400g) cooked peeled shrimp (defrosted)
1 cup frozen peas
3-5 tbsp butter (to taste)
Large handful freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. In a separate large saucepan, heat the olive oil over moderately low heat, add the shallots and a pinch of salt and sauté for two minutes. Add the garlic, and then add the rice. Turn up the heat to moderately high and continuously stir the rice for 2-3 minutes.
Turn the temperature down to medium low and add the wine and continue stirring.
When the wine has absorbed into the rice, add a ladle of hot stock and a pinch of salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring often. Continue to add ladles of hot stock when it has been absorbed into the rice and stir often. This will take about 20-25 minutes. When the last ladle of stock has been added, throw in the frozen peas and stir until the peas have cooked (about 2 minutes). Taste the rice to see if it is cooked.
Remove the rice from the heat, stir in the cooked shrimp. Add the butter and Parmesan, stirring gently. Then portion and serve.