Photo: Risotto recipe aboard a cruising sailboat. Credit: Lisa Borre.
Risi e bisi (risotto) recipe aboard s/y Gyatso.

We have this hand-written recipe on an index card which is based on notes Lisa took while receiving a risotto cooking lesson from her mom after she returned from a visit to Italy. Lisa’s parents took a number of trips to Europe with their local Taster’s Guild in the 1980s and 1990s.

On one of their trips to Italy, they learned about cooking risotto. The first instruction on the card says, “Do not follow the cooking directions on the box.” Lisa has used these instructions for making risotto with fairly good success ever since but has also refined the recipe with her own experience cooking in Italy. One of our favorite ways to serve risotto is topped with spears of roasted asparagus or sweet red peppers, strips of cooked chicken and grated parmesan cheese. Leftovers can be used as the basis for a delicious chicken soup. Makes 2 servings.

3/4 cup arborio rice (risotto)
3 cups broth (chicken, beef or vegetable)
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Sauté onion, garlic and raw rice in olive oil over medium-high heat in a large sauce pan. Bring broth to boil in a separate pan and pour into rice. Quickly cover pan with dry, folded towel and lid, keeping the towel away from the burner/flame. (I do not use the towel onboard for obvious reasons.) Turn the risotto down to simmer for 18 minutes.

Important: do not open, peak under the lid or disturb anything for 15-17 minutes. Uncover and remove from the heat. Stir in (or arrange on top of or around the outside of the rice on a plate) any of the following (pre-cooked if necessary): finely chopped fresh vegetables, peas, shrimp, fish, mushrooms, tomatoes or squash. Serve in a mound on the plate.


While visiting Italy ourselves in 2008-2009 and again in 2012-2013, we made our usual effort to learn about the local cuisine by preparing recipes onboard Gyatso. Lisa set about learning how to make this classic dish with another well-tested technique, following the instructions given in The Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl and in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. They both recommend keeping a separate pan of broth simmering, adding the broth one cup at a time, and stirring until each cup is absorbed before adding the next for a total cooking time of 18-22 minutes. We think this produces an equally good result, especially if you like a creamy, soup-like risotto. They also recommend that you use butter to sauté the onion and garlic, but we still prefer to use olive oil.

A new favorite is a version of the risotto dish known in Italy as risi e bisi. Double the ingredients listed above, leaving out the garlic. When the rice is done cooking (using the second method described above), remove from the heat and stir in: 1 cup of fresh or frozen baby peas (thawed); 1 cup of cooked chicken or 1/3 cup prosciutto, cut into thin strips, and 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese. Top with chopped, fresh parsley.


Adventures while cruising to the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Black Seas in a Tayana 37 sailboat


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