The Shortcut Ingredient to Better Risotto Is Already in Your Kitchen

updated Mar 17, 2021
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Risotto is one of our favorite feels-fancy homemade meals. Once you get the technique down, it’s easy to change things up based on whatever you have in the fridge. The only sticking point? The stock or broth. If you don’t have some in the pantry or a batch of the homemade stuff stashed in the freezer, you’re sunk. Or at least that’s what I thought until I found this super-simple tip in Naomi Pomeroy’s Taste & Technique cookbook that will make sure that you’re always risotto-ready.

Use Salted Water Instead of Broth in Risotto

That’s right — instead of using broth or stock, you can season a pot of water to make your risotto. It’s an ingenious tip on many levels. First and foremost, you don’t have to run to the store to buy stock, which saves you time and money. Also, the flavor of store-bought broths or stocks varies widely and can sometimes overpower the other ingredients in your risotto. Some are also either very yellow or very brown, which can affect the color of your finished dish. Adding lightly salted water lets the delicate flavor of the rice shine and won’t compete with the veggies, cheese, and/or seafood you add to your risotto.

For water that’s seasoned but not overly salty, Pomeroy suggests bringing 6 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to a boil over high heat in a large saucepan. Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and it’s ready to be added. If you’re following a recipe, add the water as directed for stock — usually ladling a half a cup or so into the rice at a time and stirring in between. You can also heat up more salted water as you need it, reusing the same pot. When you’re done, taste the risotto before adding any salty ingredients, like Parmesan or Romano cheese, to see if you need more or less seasoning.

Using the salted water gives you complete control over the flavors of the final dish and lets more special ingredients, like scallops or beets, really stand out.

Now try it out for yourself: 10 Risotto Recipes Any Cook Can Make