The Baked Risotto Experiment
It’s hard to know if certain dishes are annoying because they need to be annoying or just because that’s tradition.
Many people see risotto as a fairly annoying dish to make just because you have to hover over it, stirring regularly, and constantly adding hot stock to the rice until it’s done.
Sometimes it’s worth it to challenge tradition just to see if there’s a better way to do the dish.
Over the last year or so I’ve seen a few different versions of a baked risotto dish. Basically, the idea is to bake the rice in stock and you’ll hopefully end up with something very similar to risotto.
An experiment was in order to see if I’ve been stirring and stirring all these years for no reason whatsoever.
Baked Rice Casserole
Yield: Serves 4-6.
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 medium white onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine or lager beer
3 1/2 cups beef stock
1 cup Parmesan cheese
10-12 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
1) Dice onion. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Add oil to a large dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until onion is soft, about six minutes.
3) Add rice to the pan and continue to cook and stir for 1-2 minutes to heat rice.
4) Add beer or wine and stir until pan is dry. It'll just take a minute to cook off the liquid.
5) Add stock and stir together. Cover and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
6) While casserole bakes, slice mushrooms and saute them over medium-high heat in 2-3 tablespoons melted butter until they are cooked through and slightly browned, about 8 minutes.
6) Remove dish and stir in Parmesan. Stir in mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.
7) Serve immediately!
To Stir or Not to Stir
After making my version of this baked risotto, I was half disappointed.
I was disappointed because I didn’t really think it resembled risotto in any way other than that it was made with arborio rice. It wasn’t really creamy like risotto was supposed to be. So, unless I did something very wrong with the recipe, I think I’ll stick to my standard risotto method when I want risotto.
That said, this dish is worth keeping because it’s actually delicious. It’s a wonderful rice casserole that is dumb simple to make, but I can’t call it risotto with a straight face.
By all means give it a shot if you like a good rice casserole, but don’t expect it to be risotto unless you put in the work.
This casserole starts out just like risotto.
You’ll need some arborio rice and a diced onion.
Add your oil to a large dutch oven and heat it over medium heat. Add the onion and cook it until the onion is soft, but not browned, about eight minutes.
Then add in the rice and stir it so the rice heats.
After a minute of cooking, the rice should be hot. Then add in your beer or wine and stir until the liquid is evaporated. That should take all of one minute.
Here’s the step where the casserole and the risotto diverge.
If you wanted to make risotto you would slowly start ladling in hot broth and stirring the rice for about thirty minutes.
For the simple casserole version, just pour in all the stock. Done deal.
Cover this sucker and bake it in a 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes.
When it comes out, all the liquid should be gone!
When I started stirring the rice to add in my Parmesan, I noticed quickly that this wasn’t the risotto that I loved. It just wasn’t creamy enough.
Anyway though, stir in that cheese!
While the risotto cooked, I also sauteed some mushrooms in a bit of butter until they were cooked through and lightly browned. It just gives the casserole some body.
Stir the mushrooms in to the rice and season the dish with salt and pepper. You probably won’t need much salt because of the stock and Parmesan cheese.
Serve this up as soon as possible!
To be completely honest, I’ve never really thought risotto to be all that hard. I make it on weeknights. You could actually make this risotto faster than the casserole version, you would just have to stir it while it cooked.
For a rice casserole though, this is pretty solid. You won’t hear me call it risotto though.