Risotto is a dish that a lot of people save for special occasions, because all the time spent slowly adding the liquid and stirring until it is absorbed can be taxing.  Personally, I love making risotto for that very reason.  The act of cooking in general brings me great pleasure (obviously), and I don’t usually mind the time or effort it takes.  Of course, part of my enjoyment in making risotto normally comes from enjoying a glass or two of wine with some good cheese and crackers while I cook…and since I am not able to indulge in wine these days, I look less forward to risotto.  But risotto still sounded good on the menu last week, and this almost hands-free version was intriguing.

I’ll admit I was skeptical of how well this hands-free version would compare to a more traditional risotto.  Of course, I should know by now – trust in Cook’s Illustrated.  The method works wonderfully and Ben immediately declared, “Best risotto you’ve ever made!”  I must say, I loved being able to spend time reading books and playing choo-choos with Andrew while the risotto took care of itself.  I think I could get used to this method :)  The caramelized onions were my own addition, and I think they really made this dish.  That said, the time required to caramelize the onions does add a significant amount of time to this meal.  Next time I’ll make the onions the night before, especially for a weeknight, so the process goes quickly on the night I plan to serve it.

  • Yield about 6 servings


1½ tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
Pinch of sugar
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
¾ tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 cups Arborio (medium grain) rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
2 tbsp. minced fresh chives
Ground black pepper


  • 01

    Add 1½ teaspoons of the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the sliced onion and sugar, stirring to coat.  Allow the onion to cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown and caramelized.  Remove the onions to a plate and set aside.

  • 02

    In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the chicken broth and water and bring to a simmer.  In the meantime, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet used to cook the onions set over medium-high heat.  Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Transfer the chicken to the heated skillet and cook, turning once, until each side is a light golden brown.  Remove from the heat and transfer the chicken pieces to the saucepan with the simmering broth mixture.  Let cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165˚ F or until cooked through (no longer pink).  Remove the chicken from the broth and transfer to the plate with the onions.

  • 03

    Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to a Dutch oven set over medium heat.  Once melted, add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the rice to the pan, stirring to coat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are translucent around the edges, about 3 minutes.

  • 04

    Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed, about 2-3 minutes.  Stir 5 cups of hot broth mixture into the rice.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until almost all liquid has been absorbed and the rice is just al dente, 16-19 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.

  • 05

    Add ¾ cup of the hot broth mixture to the risotto and stir gently and constantly until the risotto becomes creamy, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the Parmesan.  Remove the pot from the heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

  • 06

    Meanwhile, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Stir the shredded chicken and caramelized onions into the risotto with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, lemon juice, parsley and chives.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If desired, add up to ½ cup of the remaining broth mixture to add moisture and loosen the texture.  Serve immediately.