I have this problem: if mushroom risotto is listed on the menu somewhere, I feel compelled to order it. It doesn’t matter where. I could be at a fine Italian restaurant in Boston’s North End, or at a small family diner known more for their hospitality than their food. Heck, if McDonald’s ever put mushroom risotto on their McPick 2 menu, I’d still HAVE to get it. I’m not this way with any other kind of risotto… I love the dish in general, but mushroom risotto, specifically, has a very dear spot in my heart. And so I order it every time I see it, regardless of how authentic or well-executed it may or may not be.
I’m not just randomly obsessed, I have my reasons, I promise. When I first seriously got into cooking, I read blogs and watched an endless number of videos about the fundamentals of working in the kitchen. I learned how to brine a whole chicken, how to make a perfect béchamel, and, after one minor ‘oops’ in the kitchen during which I produced an actual fire ball from my pan, I learned how to easily sear meat. Great, I thought, what now?
I knew how to make most of the basics, but how was I going to take that giant leap from a weeknight meat and potatoes dinner to a fancy, date-worthy meal?
I had always heard how good, creamy, and technically difficult risotto was. No one I knew ever made it at home, so it must be nearly impossible, right? My competitive side kicked in, and I was determined to master it. Tell me something is “nearly impossible” to make, and I will spend the next day and a half in the kitchen trying to prove you wrong.
Risotto was my first “fancy dinner” attempt that was way outside my comfort zone. I wanted to surprise Dustin with it one Valentine’s Day. Our grocery budget was pretty scant at the time, and I couldn’t splurge on the steak I wanted to accompany the risotto, so I settled for mushrooms and a vegetable broth from a box. It would have to do. I set work, reading about the proper kind of rice (arborio) that would give me that creamy finish of a classic risotto without needing to actually add any milk or cream, and watched online tutorials more times than I can count. I was ready for my first attempt.
And do you know what I found out? Not only is risotto NOT impossible, as I once thought, but it was EASY!
As it turned out, the earthy mushrooms and subtle vegetable broth enhanced the toasty nuttiness from the rice perfectly! My risotto was warm, rich, and full of yummy umami flavors. It was a hit! Dustin loved it, and I proudly wrote down my recipe and slotted it into the very first spot in my recipe book, ready to use for our next at-home dinner date.
This dish is really what gave my my cooking confidence. Since that first trial, I was convinced that I could make anything I set my mind to. This recipe has changed over the years into what it is today (mainly, I swapped out the boxed broth for homemade bone broth and added goat cheese, because, well, is there anything better than goat cheese?!), and I’m sure I’ll find new ways to update it even more in years to come, but it will always be my most favorite dish. Nowadays when Dustin and I have a dinner date at home, this is still what we make. <3
I hope you’ll give this recipe a try! It’s a perfect, comforting main or side dish any time of year. Leave me a comment below to let me know your thoughts! 🙂
This is my go-to at-home dinner date meal for myself and Dustin. The earthy/umami mushrooms and bone broth are a perfect accompaniment to the toasty and nutty arborio rice. It's simple, elegant, flavorful, and perfect any time of year.
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 sm. shallot, finely diced
- 1/2 rib celery, finely diced
- 1/2 medium carrot, finely diced
- 1 tbsp. butter, unsalted
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 c. broth, unsalted*
- 1/4 c. white wine
- 1/2 c. arborio rice
- 1/4 bunch broccolini, ends trimmed
- 1/2 c. shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1/4 c. crumbled goat cheese
In a medium saucepan, heat the stock to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Reduce heat to low to keep the stock hot throughout the risotto process.
In a small/medium nonstick skillet with a heavy bottom, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
Add the garlic, shallot, celery, carrot, and salt to the melted butter, and saute until slightly softened (about 10 minutes).
Raise the heat to medium/medium-high and add 1/4 c. of stock to the vegetables and stir. Let boil until the liquid has fully evaporated, stirring occasionally.
Add the dry rice to the skillet all at once and toast for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the outside of the rice grains are translucent (center will still be opaque).
Pour in 1/4 c. of wine to deglaze the pan. Stir occasionally until the liquid evaporates.
For the remainder of the cooking process, add 1/4 c. of broth at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid has evaporated, before adding the next 1/4 c.
Once the rice is al dente and it is thick and creamy, lower the heat and add a pinch or two of salt, to taste.
Top with broccolini, mushrooms, and goat cheese. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 2-3 minutes. Uncover and serve immediately. (At this point, if your risotto has become too thick, you can stir in a tablespoon or two of stock or water to help loosen it just a touch).
* I like to use my own homemade bone broth (chicken or beef works just fine!), but I've also used boxed vegetable broth with great success! Just make sure it's unsalted so you can have full control over your seasonings.