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Risotto alla vodka marries two classics in one luxurious bowl

(Rey Lopez for The Washington Post/Food styling by Nicola Justine Davis for The Washington Post)
Risotto Alla Vodka
Total time:45 mins
Servings:4 (makes about 4 cups)
Total time:45 mins
Servings:4 (makes about 4 cups)

Pasta alla vodka and risotto are two of my all-time favorite dishes (risotto is arguably my favorite breakfast, don’t ask!), so I’m honestly shocked it’s taken me so many years to combine them.

My twist on the Italian American classic that came to fame in the ’80s, and is traditionally made with penne, is a case of more is more: rich, creamy risotto made even richer, creamier and more flavorful. I start out just as I would with risotto: shallots sizzling in butter and olive oil. I then add a robust amount of garlic, followed by tomato paste, which is where we start to take the alla vodka spin.

I cook the tomato paste until it’s a deep, brick red, before adding Calabrian chiles for heat but also for more complex fruity, peppery flavor. Then, the star ingredient: vodka. And I always flambé! (But this dish doesn’t require it and will be equally delicious if you choose the less dramatic approach and simply add vodka to the pan, and stir and simmer to cook off the alcohol and release any bits stuck to the bottom.)

Next come the gradual additions of stock and a mini arm workout from all the stirring.

The super-rich finishing touches? Freshly grated parmesan, mascarpone and heavy cream, which take this already decadent dish to the next level.

I like to finish mine with fresh basil from my garden, which helps balance all that cheese and cream, and then I try not to inhale it straight out of the pot.

Risotto Alla Vodka

Storage: The risotto is best freshly made; refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days. Gently reheat over low heat with a little stock or water to loosen it up until the desired consistency is achieved.

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups no-salt-added or reduced-sodium vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • Fine salt
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons minced Calabrian chiles (1 to 3 chiles)
  • 1 1/4 cups (about 9 ounces) Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup warm water, as needed (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone or ricotta cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Step 1

In a medium pot over low heat, bring the stock to a simmer, then cover and keep hot.


Step 2

Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, combine the olive oil, butter, shallot and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until the shallots begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and Calabrian chiles, and cook, stirring, until the tomato paste is toasted and becomes dark brick red, 2 to 4 minutes.


Step 3

Add the rice, and cook, stirring often, until the edges are translucent and the rice starts to smell nutty, about 2 minutes. Pour in the vodka and cook until it reduces by half, about 1 minute. (If you want a dramatic show, you can also carefully light the vodka on fire using a long lighter to cook the alcohol out.)


Step 4

Begin adding the simmering stock, about 1 cup at a time, stirring often, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid before adding more, 4 to 5 minutes. After 20 to 25 minutes, taste the rice for doneness; it should be tender but with a slight bite to it. If you prefer a looser risotto, you can make a final addition of 1/2 cup of warm water.


Step 5

Once the rice has absorbed the last addition of liquid, add the parmesan cheese, heavy cream, and mascarpone or ricotta cheese, and stir until fully melted and combined.


Step 6

Taste, and season with additional salt and the black pepper, and garnish with the fresh basil. Remove from the heat and serve.


Nutrition Information

Per serving (1 cup, using no-salt-added stock and ricotta cheese)

Calories: 613; Total Fat: 30 g; Saturated Fat: 16 g; Cholesterol: 78 mg; Sodium: 598 mg; Carbohydrates: 63 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 0 g; Protein: 13 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.


From food writer Eitan Bernath.

Tested by Jim Webster; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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