Easy No-Stir Mushroom Risotto
Classic mushroom and herb risotto that can be prepared with minimal to zero stirring and hassle! A hearty vegetarian main course for weeknights or special occasions.
This week has completely, and undeniably, run away from me. Can we pretend it’s Monday? Ok, yes, let’s do that.
Connor and I traveled to Washington, DC last weekend for my sister-in-law’s wedding (speaking of time, family weddings go by just as quickly as your own!) and my closest friend, Caroline, is flying to Chicago tomorrow for a quick visit! Lots of excitement, not quite enough work. Life tends to work that way.
In the meantime, let’s talk risotto! Are you a fan? Have you ever made homemade risotto in your kitchen? If so, you know that risotto isn’t all that complicated to prepare, but it does require time, attention, and stirring. Lots and lots of stirring.
When I have some free time or am cooking more leisurely on the weekends, I have no qualms about this, but…risotto is far from weeknight friendly for the most part.
Thankfully, today’s recipe and method eliminates most of the stirring! You don’t have to be glued to the stovetop and can now prepare a classic risotto with significantly less hassle and work.
Classic risotto is prepared by toasting specific varieties of short-grain rice and gradually adding hot broth, allowing the liquid to completely absorb in stages. As the risotto cooks, the starch from the rice is released and helps produce the creamy texture that everyone has come to know and love.
A month or so ago, I came across Cook’s Illustrated method for almost hands-free risotto and became intrigued. I had heard of similar methods in the past, but had never actually prepared them myself. I was always curious as to whether or not they would produce the same texture or creaminess of a classic risotto.
So…I thought it was about time that I tried this method myself and report back.
Since I’m not able to leave well enough alone, I decided to make a few changes to the recipe. Instead of using arborio rice (which is the most well known and most widely available variety for risotto) as the recipe called for, I used the lesser known carnaroli rice, which is my personal go-to choice for homemade risotto. It is actually known as the “caviar” of all rices.
If you can find carnaroli rice at your grocery store (I actually found mine in the bulk bins of my Whole Foods, but specialty Italian stores should carry it), I highly recommend it over classic arborio rice.
As strange as it may sound, I actually became privy to this information while I was visiting and touring culinary schools years ago and I haven’t looked back since.
Carnaroli rice is actually more starchy than arborio rice, which yields an even creamier risotto.
It also holds its shape much better than arborio rice. Ideally, with a great risotto, you want each grain of rice to still hold its shape and be slightly ‘al dente’ once cooked.
I like to think of it as the same investment or reasoning behind purchasing a higher quality dried pasta over a lower quality dried pasta. It will most certainly yield a better final outcome and it is far more forgiving during the cooking process.
If you can’t find it, don’t worry, you can absolutely use arborio rice for this dish. To give it even more flavor and oomph, I added sautéed mushrooms and herbs to this risotto during the final stages of cooking. The mushrooms can be prepared as the risotto is cooking (or ahead of time!). I used a combination of shiitake and oyster mushrooms, but feel free to substitute them with other varieties!
The key to a no-stir risotto is sautéing the finely diced onion, toasting the rice, and allowing the rice to cook and absorb dry white wine – as you do with the first few steps of any classic risotto.
At this point, you deviate from the traditional method and add a large quantity (5 cups) of hot stock at once, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and allow the risotto to cook for 15 to 18 minutes, stirring the risotto once or twice during the cooking process. No more, no less.
Finally, you stir the risotto during the last 3 to 5 minutes of the cooking process to help produce that creamy texture that we know and love.
While there is something to be said for the constant stirring of a classic risotto, I can honestly say that this hands-free risotto will now be my go-to choice for weeknight dinners. It is also perfect if you want to serve risotto to a larger group of people (in my case, that’s more than two people) as it allows you to walk away from the stove and enjoy your time with your guests!