Cal Stamenov’s Risotto

Risotto with wild mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and basil

Before he headed back to Carmel Valley, Chef Cal shared one more recipe with me. This risotto is sort of a “base recipe” that can be prepared in a ton of different ways. At my birthday party, he added wild mushrooms and served it under tender slices of roasted duck. During a spring visit to the Bernardus Lodge, we had it with fresh peas, and for our wedding, we chose to have it topped with white truffles.

When I made this recipe as an appetizer for a recent dinner party, I decided to use ingredients that I had on hand. I ended up with a colorful combination of roasted cherry tomatoes, basil, and wild mushrooms. On top of being delicious, I was able to make it with items I already had in my kitchen, and it was relatively simple to prepare.

I think that the tough thing about risotto, and why it intimidates a lot of people, is that it really does need constant attention when it’s on the stove. What makes it do-able for me is to have all of my ingredients prepped and measured ahead of time (and of course, have a glass of leftover wine in hand-did I mention it’s one of the ingredients?). If I do this extra step in the beginning, I find that I can add the ingredients quickly as they are needed, which makes doing risotto much more manageable.

Cal Stamenov’s Risotto

Cal’s Risotto

2 tbs olive oil

½ medium onion (finely diced)

1 cup carnaroli rice (or Arborio rice)

4 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock

¼ lb unsalted butter

¼ cup parmesan cheese

¼ cup white wine

1 wooden spoon


making risotto


Heat oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add rice and stir slowly. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the wine. Stir over rapid simmer for 2 minutes. Keep stirring to maintain the even cooking of the rice.


Add stock a little at a time, keeping a soupy consistency. The whole process should take about 15-18 minutes for carnorali rice (3-5 minutes less for Arborio). Cook until “al-dente.”


Remove from heat. Add butter and cheese, stir in briskly to emulsify, adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve in a warm bowl with along with sautéed wild mushrooms and garlic (or whatever other ingredients you would like to add).