Marcella Answers a Question about Risotto

by Lael Hazan on March 4, 2011

A recent letter to Marcella and her answer:

Here is the recipe for squash risotto.

Dear Marcella
I thought of you watching Top Chef these last couple of weeks. One chef used cream in his risotto, to make it creamy, and clearly that would make any student of yours upset. Then Tom Colicchio said that if a risotto is not runny then it is not risotto. He went to write: “Risotto should be soupy. If you go to Italy, you’ll┬ábe served it that way; ditto, a good Italian restaurant here…The starch should go into the stock and the risotto should run on a flat plate and not hold its form at all.” My risotto, which I learnt from your writings, holds its form. I’m not sure if it should, according to others, but I like it.

Regards David

Ciao David,
American chefs who go to Italy suffer from a Moses complex, they are always coming down from the mount with a tablet of rules for the unlearned. What he should have said is, “If you go to Venice …”. Yes, our Venetian risotto, while not quite soupy unless it’s made with peas, is indeed runny, and of course we love it. But in Bologna and in Piedmont, risotto is firmly clingy and it is not less delicious. As for the chef who adds cream, well, follow my example, pay no attention to chefs.

Ciao, ciao.


Here is the recipe

Comments on this entry are closed.

Dori April 20, 2011 at 10:24 am

Learning to make a good risotto was a process that took time and an infusion of friendship in every batch. I met my friend, Santina, while my husband and I lived in married student college housing. Santina was born and raised in Fruili and she knew how to cook the dishes from her region. She and her husband lived in the building next to ours and we became close friends through our passion for food and wine. We spent many weekend days cooking and evenings enjoying the delights with our husbands and friends. One of the first dishes that we made together was risotto. I had always thought that a good risotto was one where the ‘cream’ from the rice was released over a perfect heat in a perfect heavy pot, never adding too much liquid too fast or trying to rush the release of the cream. In good times, and when we could get Santina’s mom to send us some, we used saffron to finish the risotto. Now many years later I still make risotto the same way and kind of get a giggle in all the American ‘variations’ I have experienced at restaurants and on cooking shows. My risotto is never rushed, does not run all over the plate and NEVER has had a drop of cream added to the pot! Thank you for setting the record straight.

Kit March 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Great response! I’ve been making risotto from Marcella’s Classic Italian cookbook for years, ever since 25 years ago I came back to the UK from Italy, asked for risotto in an ‘Italian’ restaurant and was given rice with sauce on top. I was too young and shy to send it back, but made it myself after that!

Rosa March 4, 2011 at 11:28 am

A good answer! Thanks for the info.



Patricia March 4, 2011 at 11:23 am

Since I also watch Top Chef, I appreciated David’s question and I laughed out loud at your response! I continue to tell friends that Italians only exist outside of Italy. When in Italy, you are either Venetian, Florentine, Roman, Calabrese, Sicilian…and the same with the food. Thank you for the squash risotto recipe. Having most of my roots in Southern Italy, making risotto is a new skill for me. But I do NOT use cream.

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