In the fall, once the rains sweep through the forests, wild mushrooms flourish. If you manage to get your hands on them, make this simple wild mushroom risotto. Good broth, a little wine, fresh thyme, and plenty of olive oil bring it all together in this easy, classic recipe.
What is it?
Risotto is a northern Italian rice dish made by sautéing rice in a skillet and slowly adding liquid to the pan. The slow introduction of broth and constant stirring encourages the rice to release its starch, creating a creamy result.
Seasonal vegetables are often added to the dish, such as mushrooms in autumn. Spring vegetables, such as asparagus and peas, can make a delicious risotto primavera.
Wild mushroom risotto is a traditional version of this classic dish and is immensely popular, especially in the autumn months when specialty mushrooms are more widely available. It typically includes broth, wine, fresh herbs, and parmesan cheese.
What's in it?
Basic risotto typically includes rice and a few aromatic ingredients such as onion, garlic, and herbs, as well as wine and broth.
In this version of wild mushroom risotto, garlic, shallot, and fresh thyme, add flavor to the dish. Both white wine and chicken broth give the risotto flavor, while also serving as the liquid portion of the ingredients.
You'll also add a variety of mushrooms depending on what's available and in season where you live. Parmesan cheese, wine, and a rich broth give the risotto a deep, satisfying savory note.
- Rice is the foundation of risotto. Choose a high-starch, short-grain white rice such as Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano.
- Olive oil and butter are both used to help sauté both the rice and the aromatics.
- Liquid ingredients include chicken broth and white wine. Pinot grigio works well in this risotto recipe, and Sauvignon Blanc is also popular, but any crisp white works.
- Aromatics include shallots and fresh thyme. Onion, garlic, and parsley are popular inclusions, too.
- Mushrooms give the risotto body and flavor. Choose a wide variety of mushrooms, whether domestic or wild, for the best flavor.
- Parmesan cheese added at the very end of cooking helps bring the dish together, giving it a delicious savory note. For the best flavor, opt for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Choosing Wild Mushrooms
The key to any good mushroom recipe is variety. Each mushroom, both domestic and wild, has a slightly unique flavor and using different kinds of mushrooms is what can make this risotto recipe truly stand out.
You can often find wild mushrooms sold at farmer's markets, gourmet grocers, and natural foods shops in the fall (and sometimes spring).
In addition, many varieties formerly considered wild such as oyster and lion's mane, are now cultivated by growers. You may be able to find these fresh mushrooms at well-stocked grocery stores.
Pine Mushrooms are available in the fall and have a meaty texture and complex flavor reminiscent of cinnamon and pine.
Chicken of the woods is a bright yellow-colored mushroom with a savory flavor and a faint note of lemon.
Chanterelles have a bright flavor with notes of citrus and apricots.
Porcini mushrooms are members of the bolete family, and they're particularly prized for their rich flavor and savory texture. Porcini are often available dried.
Morels are a variety of springtime mushroom with an earthy, nutty flavor. They're also widely available dried.
Oyster mushrooms are delicious in this wild mushroom risotto recipe. Oyster mushrooms are both wild and domesticated.
Shiitake mushrooms have a woodsy flavor and are widely available both in fresh and dried forms.
Hen of the Woods is a mushroom that tastes earthy with notes of black pepper. It is available both foraged and domesticated.
Mushroom Risotto Tips
While it can seem complicated or time-consuming, making risotto is actually quite easy. It's a simple, one-pan dish. And, as long as you can pour and stir, you can make mushroom risotto.
- Sauté the mushrooms first, and then set them in a dish on the counter to re-incorporate into the risotto. This will give them better flavor and keep their texture from getting too soggy with prolonged cooking.
- Use the right rice. Starchy rice is essential for a creamy risotto with an al dente, or firm, texture. Arborio, Carnaroli (my personal favorite), and Vialone Nano are your best choices.
- Sauté the rice in olive oil and butter until the tips of the grains turn translucent. It adds flavor and improves texture of the risotto.
- Keep the broth or chicken stock hot so that it's easy to incorporate into the rice and doesn't cool off the pan.
- Add the broth slowly, about ½ cup at a time. Slowly stirring the broth into the rice allows the rice to absorb liquid and release starch, making for a super creamy wild mushroom risotto.
- Return the sautéed mushrooms to the pan toward the end of cooking, so they'll better retain their shape, texture, and flavor.
What to Serve With Wild Mushroom Risotto
Mushroom risotto is traditionally served at the beginning of the meal or as a side dish, but it makes a delicious main course if you're looking for something starchy and comforting.
Easy Roast Chicken is a great partner for wild mushroom risotto. While the chicken roasts in the oven, you can stir the risotto.
A simple salad of bitter greens dressed with lemon and parmesan works well on the side, too.
Grilled salmon or other fish is a nice partner for risotto, too. Especially if you season the fish simply with salt, lemon, and black pepper.
Variations and Substitutions
For an alcohol-free option, swap in an equivalent amount of broth with a squeeze of lemon.
Use dried mushrooms, such as dried porcini or morels for a portion of the mushrooms. Rehydrate them in hot water, and then incorporate the mushroom-soaking liquid in place of some of the chicken stock.
Try adding sage in place of thyme. Sage's earthy, pine-like flavor partners well with wild mushrooms.
Use yellow onion in place of shallot. It's a little less expensive and one medium yellow onion works well in place of two shallots.
For a vegetarian version of wild mushroom risotto, skip the chicken broth and substitute mushroom or vegetable stock in its place.
For a dairy-free version there are a few simple swaps. Substitute additional olive oil for the butter, and omit the parmesan cheese. In place of the cheese, stir 1 tablespoon of miso paste into the rice as it has a richly savory flavor that works well with wild mushrooms.
Try red wine in place of white wine. While most mushroom risotto recipes call for a crisp, dry white wine, you can swap in red for a deeper, more robust flavor. Pinot noir is a good option.
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Look for a starchy, short- to medium-grain white rice such as Arborio, Canaroli, or Vialone Nano. These varieties of rice slowly release their starch content into the broth as you stir, resulting in a creamy texture.
You can keep leftover mushroom risotto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freezing changes the texture of risotto, resulting in a grainy, spongy quality to the rice. So, it's best to store any leftovers in the fridge instead of the freezer.
Spoon the leftovers into a skillet set over medium-low heat, and then pour in about ¼ cup chicken broth or water for every 1 cup of risotto. Cover, and let it warm until it reaches 165 F, and then give it a stir to incorporate the broth. Add more broth to loosen the rice, if necessary.
If you can't find wild mushrooms at your local grocers, consider using a variety of domesticated mushrooms. Button mushrooms, Cremini mushrooms (Baby Bellas), and similar domesticated mushrooms work just as well as wild varieties in this risotto recipe.