A lot of people don’t realize that most of what line cooking is, is reheating food, and doing it well.
Risotto takes forty minutes to make if you start with raw rice. And you simply don’t have that kind of time when you’ve got a full dining room and tickets pouring in.
So what do chefs do? They develop shortcuts.
As a professional chef who’s cooked at least a thousand risottos, let’s talk strategy.
The #1 Method for Reheating Risotto
When a kitchen preps risotto for dinner service, they cook the rice ahead of time until it’s al dente. This ensures that a busy cook won’t overcook the rice when an order for risotto comes in.
However, let’s assume you’ve cooked the rice to perfection already. No problem, you’ll just want to keep an eye on it while it’s reheating.
Here is the tried and true method used by chef’s in thousands of restaurants:
- Heat up a cup of broth or stock. Water will work in a pinch.
- Add the risotto to a pot and ladle in enough stock to almost cover the risotto. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring continuously, and add more stock as needed.
- As soon as the risotto is hot and has absorbed the liquid, it’s ready.
- Plate it immediately and garnish with additional parmesan and herbs if desired.
That’s it! That’s the big secret. Just use a little more liquid and your risotto will taste like you just made it.
Note: If you have to reheat using water, consider stirring in a pat of butter at the end to round out the flavor.
Method 2 - For the Working Cook
Let’s say you made a delicious risotto that you want to have for lunch at work the following day.
Since most offices frown upon cooking a gourmet meal on a hot plate in the communal break room, the microwave is going to be your best option.
Working Cook Method:
Heat the risotto in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring well in between. Stir in 1-2 Tablespoons of hot water if the risotto is too thick.
It will still be absolutely delicious, and you’re guaranteed to be the envy of your coworkers once that smell starts wafting through the office.
A Chef’s Secret for Turning Leftover Risotto into Arancini
Food waste can be the difference in whether or not a restaurant turns a profit on their menu that week.
When a restaurant preps a risotto, not only have they already paid for the food, they’ve paid labor costs for a cook to do that prep.
Any chef worth their salt will find a way to use that risotto rather than throw it out. Therefore, Arancini was born.
Arancini is risotto balls stuffed with cheese, breaded, and fried. Usually served with marinara as an appetizer.
How to Make Arancini:
- Make risotto and chill it completely.
- Scoop out about ¼ cup of risotto and round it into a ball (wet your hands to make this easier).
- Poke a hole in the middle of the risotto ball and stuff a small cube of mozzarella or other melty cheese inside. Pinch the risotto ball back together.
- Roll the ball in seasoned flour and shake off the excess. Roll it in some seasoning, then beaten eggs with milk, then roll it in seasoned bread crumbs. Freeze for 10 minutes on a parchment-lined pan before proceeding.
- Heat a few inches of a neutral oil to 350°F for deep frying. Line a plate with paper towels and have a metal slotted spoon at the ready. Fry the risotto balls for 3-5 minutes, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.
- Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Serve with a side of marinara.
How to Make Risotto Cakes
If you don’t want to deep fry arancini, you can add seasoned bread crumbs and an egg to leftover risotto, pat them into little cakes, and shallow fry them. Absolutely delicious, and less trouble than arancini.
- Take two cups of leftover risotto and mix with 1 egg and 2 tablespoons of seasoned bread crumbs. Mix in ⅓ cup of shredded cheese if you like.
- Wet your hands, then scoop the rice into your palm with a ¼ cup scoop. Roll it into a ball, then flatten with your hands.
- Use your palm to shape the edges into a flat disc. Chill for 30 minutes before shallow frying.
- You may also bread them as you would in step 4 of the Arancini. Freeze for 10 minutes before proceeding if you bread them.
- Heat a non-stick sauté pan to medium-high heat. Add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom and let it get hot, but not smoking. Prepare a paper towel-lined plate.
- Fry the risotto cakes for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to the paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Serve with a light green salad, or with marinara on the side.
Tips for Storing Risotto
Cool the risotto completely, then store in an airtight container. Risotto will keep for 5-7 days in the fridge, depending on what add-ins you used.
For example, wilted spinach in your risotto probably won’t hold as long as something like mushrooms. Use within five days for best results.
Can You Freeze Risotto?
No, Risotto does not reheat well after being frozen.
You can freeze breaded arancini for up to a week in an airtight container. Freeze the arancini on a plate or pan, then transfer to a container.
How to Make Risotto Ahead of Time
Cook your Arborio rice according to package directions in water or broth. Stop when the rice is al dente. Drain the rice, spread it flat on a cookie sheet, and chill in the fridge. When it’s cold, transfer to an airtight container. Use the rice within 5-7 days.
Make the risotto as directed. Skip the step of toasting the rice, as cooked rice will not toast very well due to the water content. Risotto will finish in 5-10 minutes when prepared this way.
Make your risotto as normal, but stop cooking it when the rice is al dente and has 5-10 minutes of cook time left.
Cool the risotto quickly by spreading it flat on a sheet pan. Then store in an airtight container.
When you’re ready to make the risotto for dinner, heat up a few cups of broth or stock and continue cooking the risotto until the rice is tender.
Use the pre-cooked risotto within 5-7 days.
Risotto can be reheated beautifully by warming it in a pan with a few ladles of hot broth, and stirring continuously. Reheating risotto in the microwave is a great alternative option. Don't forget to stir frequently.
Use leftover risotto to make delicious arancini or risotto cakes.
Store leftover, cooled risotto in an airtight container, and use within 5-7 days.
And remember, do not freeze risotto.