Market basket: Creamy risotto is a labor of love

Market basket: Creamy risotto is a labor of love

Tammy Algood  |  Special to The Tennessean

Although I can’t find it in any of my family history, I’m convinced there is some Italian in there somewhere. Merely because I love the food to my core as well as the language and land. One of the signature dishes I make particularly during cold weather months is risotto.

By definition, risotto is a rice dish that is quite labor intensive, which makes me appreciate it all the more. When it is done, I’ve dedicated myself so much to it that I can hardly wait to feast on it. Although several different varieties can be used to make risotto, I always use Arborio. A friend of mine swears by Baldo, but it is harder to find.

The first step is to toast a cup of uncooked rice in butter for a minute over high heat. Stirring constantly is a must as it will be throughout the entire process. Then reduce the heat to medium-high and add the flavor items you wish. I add minced onions, garlic and a bit of white wine and cooked just until the onions are tender.

Then the fun begins by adding hot stock a cup at a time to the pan. Stirring is now your middle name because that’s your job for the next half hour at least. You don’t add another cup until the previous one is absorbed. This is when you become friends with the process.

As tedious as that sounds, it gives you the most perfectly creamy dish and surprisingly the rice grains stay distinctly separated while being cooked to the al dente stage. Just before serving, I add chopped fresh herbs, salt, pepper and stir in some grated Parmesan. You can also add cooked poultry, vegetables or shrimp. It is Italian comfort food in the finest form and can be a main dish or side.

You asked for it

Mary Perkins of Nashville would like to know why “dirty rice” has such an unappealing name.


It is due to the look of the rice after preparation. The giblets used to season and deliciously flavor the rice are finely minced and that gives it a “dirty” appearance. It also is seasoned with onions, green bell peppers, garlic and bacon drippings.

Tammy Algood is the author of five cookbooks and can be seen on “Volunteer Gardener” on PBS stations in Tennessee. Follow her at