Risotto (or creamy rice) is a great budget friendly meal. I make upwards of 20 varieties of risotto flavored with different types of vegetable sauces I make by combining and sauteing veggies, olive oil, garlic, onion, and salt and pepper. The sauces can be made ahead of time in large batches and frozen in 1 or 2 cup servings for later use. My favorite is mushroom. Added to cooked risotto and topped with Parmesan there isn't much better
When making risotto, if you want, you can pass on the pricey aborio rice. My family members born and raised in Italy use regular white long grain rice for their risotto. If it is good enough for them, it is good enough for me. I have also made it from brown rice - it just requires a longer cook time and more liquid.
Here is a basic guide on how to make risotto:
(1) Saute a small amount of onion and garlic in olive oil. Don't brown the onion or garlic, just saute it at a nice low heat so that its flavors really meld with the oil. I usually use about 1/4 of olive oil and 1/2 cup of onion and 4 minced garlic cloves.
(2) Stir in 2 cups of long grain rice. (Optional - some people add a bit of dry white wine at this point).
(3) Add approx. 6 cups of hot chicken or vegetable stock to the rice 1 cup at a time. Stir in each cup of stock until the liquid is fully absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and repeat the process until the rice is cooked, tender and creamy. It is important to stir risotto constantly to prevent burning. If additional liquid is needed after you have used all of the stock, use warm water 1 cup at a time to continue cooking the rice. After cooking, stir in any vegetable sauce if desired.
Serve the rice immediately topped with Parmesan cheese.
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