Risotto is most traditionally made with Parmesan cheese, which is stirred in right at the very end of cooking to not only boost the rice's creaminess but als0 lend its signature salty, nutty flavor to the dish. Don't get so caught up in the "rules," though, because risotto is one of the most flexible meals you can make.
While there is nothing wrong with Parmesan, the cheese possibilities for risotto are nearly endless. Experiment with different varieties and you'll quickly discover that the world of this comfort-food staple really has no boundaries. So with that said, here are seven cheeses to try.
1. Pecorino Romano
Pecorino Romano is sort of like Parmesan's funky cousin. It's a hard cheese that grates like Parmesan, but since it's made from sheep's milk instead of cow's milk, it's sharper, saltier, and all together tangier. If you've ever tasted the classic Roman pasta cacio e pepe, you'll understand the kick of flavor it delivers.
If you're looking to make your risotto even more creamy and rich, a dollop of mascarpone is the answer. The spoonable cheese is as buttery and luxe as it comes. It won't add the salty flavor that other cheeses will, so it's best to use it in combination with classic Parm.
Either shredded mozzarella or fresh mozzarella works, but I do have a preference for the latter. Take a big ball of the fresh stuff, dice it into cubes, and stir those cubes into your risotto just before serving. The cubes will melt just enough to give you glorious cheese pulls, but they'll still maintain some of their shape so that you have a little texture.
4. Sharp Cheddar
While it's not Italian, the crowd-pleasing tendencies of cheddar are hard to ignore. Cheddar melts well, and if you opt for the sharp variety it delivers a nice nuttiness too. Either white or yellow cheddar will work — just know the latter will lend a yellow hue to the dish to make it reminiscent of classic mac and cheese (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
Taleggio has its own character — it's extra gooey and assertively stinky. That means it's probably not for everyone, but if you (like me) adore strong cheeses, it will be love at first whiff. You'll want to trim off the thick rind before using it. Since this cheese is too soft to grate, dice it into small cubes or slice it thin and stir it in that way.
Related: Grape and Taleggio Flatbread
If Taleggio sounds a bit too intense for your taste, give Fontina a try. The semi-soft cheese is a toned-down version that melts like a dream and has just a touch of funk to keep things interesting. It can be grated with abandon, and leftovers are wonderful in everything from casseroles to frittatas.
This cheese is similar in texture to Fontina but is nuttier and even more buttery in flavor. It's one of the most classic choices for French onion soup if that's any indication of its creamy, melty factor.
Do you have a favorite cheese to use when making risotto?