Risotto. Say the first half quick, then draw out the “t” – riz-ot-to. Now say, “yum, yes please.” I can’t think of a better food for those in-between seasons days, where it’s just a little cool outside but there’s still plenty of good fresh produce.

Or for those downright cold or rainy days, where just the act of leaving the house requires supernatural motivation.

Or for any day, really. Risotto, I could eat it with a fox, in a box, here or there, anywhere.

Shrimp Risotto

Although risotto isn’t exactly an unusual food, it is one that many Americans don’t often cook at home and one that many Italian-American restaurants don’t serve (or don’t serve well).

In part, this is because it takes some time to prepare and making individual portions is tricky. In part, it’s because risotto comes from the north of Italy and many Italian-American restaurants specialize in the foods of the south. Whatever the reason, it’s a shame.

Risotto is perfect for celiacs, because it’s naturally gluten-free. Nothing to substitute or work around – just a classic dish perfected by a few centuries of Italian nonnas. It’s a great dish to keep up your sleeve for those times when you want something comfortable, or you have a few random ingredients around the house that you need to use up.

If you’ve ever been to Risotteria in New York – an Italian restaurant that has embraced the gluten-free community since opening ten years ago – you know that most risotto is made with one of three varieties of short-grain rice:

  • Arborio
  • Carnaroli
  • Vialone Nero

The rice is cooked carefully, with lots of stirring and the slow addition of warm broth or wine. This process scares some of the starches out of the rice, where they bind together with delicious things like caramelized onion and cheese for a creamy, cohesive, warming dish.

Your local supermarket should carry at least one variety of risotto rice, and I can almost guarantee you’ll find a recipe on the box. If not, this gluten-free risotto recipe from about.com is pretty standard.

Once you’ve made a basic risotto – or even before, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can branch out and try new flavor combinations.

Beet Horseradish Risotto

Gluten will be the farthest thing from your mind as you whip up a risotto with:

Once you’ve made your risotto, eat it like an Italian would: use the back of your fork to spread the risotto into a thin layer on your plate before digging in. This cools the risotto down, so you won’t burn your tongue.

Buon Appetito! What’s your favorite risotto recipe?