I am almost ashamed to say that I never had tried risotto until I was in my twenties. There really isn’t any good reason for that either.
For me, I guess it was just a dish that I only saw people undercook on various cooking competition tv shows. Nowadays things have changed drastically as I am pretty much in love with risotto – I cook some derivation of it nearly every week, from wild mushroom risotto to seafood risotto.
However, some things still stay the same and it’s almost impossible for me to cook risotto without thinking of Gordon Ramsay yelling at some poor soul about how they destroyed the risotto.
If you cook risotto often, it can be easy to stay in the habit of cooking a recipe that you know, we are creatures of habit after all.
But, if you’re deciding to switch it up you may be wondering what to serve with risotto.
Well, pretty much anything is a great accompaniment to risotto from salads, to seafood, to chicken, or even roasted vegetables.
What Goes Well with Risotto?
One of the best things about risotto (aside from the mouthwatering taste that is) is that it goes well with nearly everything from salads to seared ahi tuna.
So, it’s difficult to say what exactly does and doesn’t go well with risotto. It all depends on your personal preference.
However, you probably want to keep your taste buds within the same realm.
While this can be somewhat subjective, it usually is a bit of what just feels right.
For example, for most risotto recipes, serving things like stir-fry, sushi, nachos, or a sub sandwich all seem a bit out of place, right?
While I don’t think that anything is really “off-limits” in the kitchen, sometimes, certain flavors don’t tend to mesh.
However, sometimes seemingly unrelated and strange flavors work wonders together. And in fact, if you really want to serve something like sushi, you can incorporate soy sauce and miso paste into the risotto, making it a delicious match with a sushi side.
So, ultimately, since risotto is such a versatile dish, you can tweak the ingredients so that it suits whatever style you want to make.
Should You Serve Risotto as a Main or Side Dish?
There isn’t any reason to confine risotto to being a side dish or a main dish. It can be whatever you want it to be!
Okay, please don’t hate me if you came here for answers but are only getting more questions, but it’s risotto’s fault!
It really is such a versatile dish that you can adjust the meal so that it works perfectly as a succulent side dish or mouth-watering main.
However, in Italy, risotto usually is served as a first course or, primo piatto. This means that it often takes the place of pasta in the northern regions of Italy.
It can be followed by an antipasto and then by a meat or fish entrée (secondo piatto).
Of course, like pasta, a rich risotto, such as one with a lot of seafood or cheese, can be a piatto unico – a one-dish meal. In that situation, a salad would be served instead of a genuine secondo – or second dish.
However, this is just something to keep in mind. If you plan on serving a big piece of protein like fish, steak, or chicken breast, for example, then it’s best to serve risotto as a side dish.
Something else to consider is also how much time you’d like to spend cooking. If you’re short on time, then cooking everything together and serving it as a main would be best. Or, if your main dish is easily cooked like a seared steak. Otherwise, you may find yourself spending the entire afternoon or evening cooking.
Best Side Dishes to Serve with Risotto
Risotto itself to almost any flavor combination you want to toss into the pot, which makes it a perennial favorite.
It loves citrus, it loves meat, it loves vegetables. But it especially loves being the center of attention.
As part of its creamy texture, rice starch forms a base, and then parmesan and butter are added to create a salty and savory flavor.
This combination of texture and flavor can make it stand apart as a main dish.
While it can certainly hold its own, a little bit of company can only help. Particularly if the risotto is extremely rich, it can be beneficial to balance out the meal with something a bit lighter.
Let’s check out the best side dishes to serve with risotto.
Arugula salad is a great side dish with risotto because it has its own distinct taste and it can help to balance out risotto that can be very rich and heavy. It’s also very easy.
All you need to do is toss arugula with some olive oil, lemon juice and top it with parmesan and shallots and you’ve got a perfect side salad!
While garlic bread is a bit heavier, it’s the bread equivalent of risotto – it’s delicious goes with pretty much everything.
So, in short, a bit of garlic bread never hurts.
Pea and Mint Soup
There may be peas in risotto, but how about serving a fresh, vibrant pea and mint soup alongside your favorite risotto?
It’s light. It’s bright.
There’s no doubt it hits every flavor note to earn that well-deserved place next to an amazing risotto. You can check out my favorite pea and mint soup recipe.
Similar to garlic bread, roasted veggies are a classic side dish.
The vegetables you choose can be tailored to the type of risotto you cooked.
Additionally, roasted vegetables aren’t only a healthy side, but they can add a colorful addition to the meal as well as hands-off cooking, which can be helpful while you’re busy stirring your risotto!
I recommend you give roasted carrots, roast butternut squash, or roasted broccoli a try next time you whip up a risotto recipe.
Adding a Caprese salad is a great way to cap off an Italian-themed night.
Make sure to use the best, freshest ingredients, however. Caprese is only as good as your ingredients are fresh.
Best Main Dishes that Risotto Goes With
If you decide to serve risotto as a side dish, here are some great main dish options to serve alongside it.
What could be better served alongside a mound of herby risotto than scallops?
A combination of sweet, caramelized scallops and creamy risotto creates a well-rounded flavor profile that is both delicious and well-rounded. They’re beautifully browned and full of buttery goodness. Enough said, right?
Braising chicken is great with risotto because you can let it simmer while you stir the risotto. While it’s not the simplest recipe, this braised chicken recipe is to die for.
The addition of roasted shrimp to risotto not only adds a touch of elegance, but it’s also the perfect last-minute addition since it only takes a couple of minutes to cook.
Put a handful of shrimp on top of each bowl after the risotto is done.
What Wine Goes Best with Risotto?
Using the appropriate wine to cook risotto makes all the difference. A decent white wine adds the proper amount of balance to a meal, with a fruity note and a touch of acidity.
The cheapest option is, of course, using the bottom-shelf cooking wines, but they are lousy at best and offer little flavor to your risotto. You’ll elevate your risotto and add to its taste by choosing and using a modestly priced wine!
While ultimately it comes down to personal preference, but for most people (myself included), a dry, crisp white wine would be ideal for risotto.
Select a reasonably priced white wine, such as a Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, or a nice Marsala. Depending on the other components in your risotto, they’ll contribute to the overall depth of the meal.
I’ll give a brief description of three of my favorite types of wines that are ideal for cooking risotto.
Sauvignon Blanc is a popular wine, and it’s also an excellent choice for cooking risotto. It has a sharp acidity that adds depth and flavor to many risotto recipes, but like Pinot Grigio, it is best combined with fish or sauces that employ heavy cream.
Because it’s not a particularly rich wine, it adds just the right amount of flavor without being overpowering.
Pinot Grigio is perhaps the most neutral wine in the crisp white wine category, making it extremely flexible.
It has a dry, crisp, and clean flavor and is regarded as a highly ‘drinkable’ wine. It’s a go-to wine for cooking seafood, so it’ll pair nicely with seafood risotto, bringing a fruity, mineral note.
The richest and most crisp white wine to cook risotto with, Chardonnay is also one of the most versatile wines when it comes to cooking.
Capable of withstanding heavier tastes, and with Chardonnay contributing a rich flavor of its own to foods, it aids in the preparation of robust risottos. Chardonnay goes particularly well with chicken risotto since chicken risotto is often rich and flavorful, and the depth of flavor provided by a Chardonnay enhances this.
What Wine Should You Drink with Risotto?
Lastly, after you’ve finished cooking the meal, it’s time to enjoy it. And pairing risotto with a glass of wine can be the perfect way to enjoy it. Risotto rice has a sweet flavor, but the other components must be considered when pairing wine with risotto.
A young, fresh, and sapid white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc, is ideal for a seafood risotto. This method also works great with chicken risotto.
Mushroom risottos match well with a full-bodied, crisp white wine, such as Chardonnay. The Chardonnay’s creamy, buttery taste compliments the earthy flavor of the mushrooms well!
Red wine with a tannic flavor would combine nicely with the classic Risotto alla Milanese with saffron. Saffron pairs beautifully with both red and white wine, so you have a lot of alternatives with this meal!