Marco Pierre White's secret to the perfect risotto

Marco Pierre White takes the mystery out of risotto.
Marco Pierre White takes the mystery out of risotto. Photo: Pat Scala

"People just rush things," says Marco Pierre White, talking of course, about those times in the kitchen when we get impatient with risotto. "You don't have to ladle in the stock one by one, but you do need to give things time to settle. For example, you shouldn't immediately stir through the butter, you need to put it on and give it a minute to rest. A good risotto comes at the end of a number of steps done well." 

He tackled the risotto issue head on in this week's MasterChef, because of the TV show's famous curse – that of the sloppy risotto which seems to send every contestant who cooks it straight home. 

And while it seems there are no shortcuts to a great risotto, Pierre White does have trade tricks. 

"If you can't cut an onion fine enough, use a grater and grate it," he says in that purposeful voice. "You don't want chunks of onion through the risotto. I do the same when I'm cooking bolognese at home, I'll grate the onion, carrot and celery. Also, we've been taught to use a wooden spoon to stir, when actually a spatula is much better for this dish." 

Here is his foolproof risotto recipe, with enough leftover to make everyone's favourite arancini balls. 

Marco Pierre White's Risotto Milanese

Marco Pierre White's Risotto Milanese.

Risotto Milanese

Serves 4 (plus leftovers for arancini, recipe below)



For the white beef stock

500g beef bones, cut small

5L water

1 bay leaf   

For the risotto

1.6L white beef stock

1g saffron

135g unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, grated

1 garlic clove, crushed

400g superfine rice

125ml dry white wine

40g parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus extra to garnish


1. For the white beef stock, place all ingredients into a large, heavy-based pot over low heat and cover with a lid. Simmer for three hours.

2. Remove from heat and strain stock liquid through a fine sieve lined with muslin cloth into a clean bowl. Allow liquid to cool, then skim surface with a ladle to remove any fat.

3. For the risotto, place 1.6 litres of the white beef stock into a large, heavy based saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, add saffron and cover with a lid to infuse for five minutes.

4. Place a medium-sized, heavy-based saucepan over low heat. Add one tablespoon of the unsalted butter and olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook, without browning, until soft.

5. Add the rice and stir until all grains are coated with oil and have slightly warmed.

6. Deglaze the saucepan with white wine then stir continuously until all liquid has been absorbed.

7. Add in half of the white beef stock to the rice saucepan and stir continuously to prevent rice sticking to the base of the pan. When the liquid has reduced, add another quarter of the stock.  When all liquid has been absorbed add remaining stock. Cook for a further five minutes or until rice is cooked and a creamy texture is achieved, adding small amounts of water if necessary.  

To finish the risotto, stir through remaining unsalted butter and parmesan. Serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan.

Marco Pierre White's Arancini balls

Marco Pierre White's Arancini balls


Makes 10


For the filling

350g leftover risotto, cold

Crumb mix

35g plain flour

salt and pepper, to season

2 eggs, lightly beaten

100g panko breadcrumbs

1.5L vegetable or canola oil, for deep-frying


1. For the arancini filling, line a baking tray with baking paper. 

2. Divide cold risotto mixture into 10 even portions and roll into balls. Place balls onto lined tray and set aside in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the crumb mix by placing flour into a medium sized mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

4. Place lightly beaten eggs in a medium sized bowl and set aside next to the flour mix.

5. Place panko crumbs into a food processor and blitz to a fine crumb, transfer to a medium sized bowl and set aside next to the flour and egg bowls.

6. Remove risotto balls from the fridge. Carefully roll balls in flour, ensuring they are evenly coated. Shake off excess flour and then dip into egg, allow excess egg to drip off then dip into crumbs and coat evenly.

7. Once all balls are crumbed, dip balls into the egg, a second time, then coat with a second layer of crumb. Gently roll each ball between your palms to ensure crumbs are firmly pressed. Return crumbed balls to a tray lined with baking paper and place back into the fridge for 20 minutes to set.

8. Heat frying oil in a medium saucepan to 180C.

9. Fry arancini in batches, until golden brown, about three to four minutes. 

10. Remove arancini from oil and place onto a tray lined with paper towel to drain. Season and serve.