Easy Risotto: An Oxymoron?

My friend Paul Howell makes risotto all the time. Pumpkin risotto and mushroom risotto are two of his favorites. I have always found the labor-intensive stirring and adding of liquid required for perfect risotto a little tedious. But Paul introduced me to the pressure cooker method.

For my first attempt I tried a dark purple beet risotto. I doubted that the pressure cooker could produce the creamy consistency of a really great risotto, but I was pleasantly surprised. The texture was fabulous. The flavor was a tad bland -- maybe it needed a little more seasoning. But I think it's fair to say that this is a pretty easy way to make risotto.

Here's the recipe I came up with:

Pressure Cooker Beet Risotto

Cooking the beets and then the risotto in the pressure cooker, you can knock out this recipe in half an hour. That's about half the normal amount of time.

  • 3-4 medium sized beets

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 shallots, minced

  • 2 cups chopped beet greens

  • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar

  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 2 cups grated Parmesan

Cut off the tops of the beets and reserve the greens. Snip the tails. Wash the beets, being careful not to puncture the skin. Put the cleaned beets in a steamer basket in the pressure cooker. Add 2/3 cup of water. Seal and cook for 25 minutes after the regulator reaches high. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Slip the skins off the beets. Chop the beets into fine dice and reserve one cup. Puree the remaining beets with the chicken stock, and reserve.

Rinse the beet greens in several changes of water until all grit has been removed. Chop the greens finely. In the pressure cooker, heat the olive oil, then sauté the greens until soft. Add the Arborio rice and stir until all the grains are coated with oil. Add the wine and stir until it has mostly evaporated. Add the chicken broth and beets and stir. Put the pressure cooker lid on the pot, bring the pot up to pressure and cook four minutes.

Transfer pan to sink and run cold water over the top. When the pressure has been released, return the pot to the stove. The risotto will be very runny -- cook on medium-high heat 5-10 minutes longer, stirring vigorously until the desired consistency has been achieved. Stir in reserved cubed beets and cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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