One thing that we hate when making rice, especially risotto, is how you can never seem to make the exact amount needed. There is either too little or too much, the latter being the most common of the two.
With risotto, this is especially frustrating as it is a very long cooking process that constantly needs to be stirred. If you turn your back for a few seconds, the whole pot could be ruined.
The biggest solution would be to freeze it, but is that even possible?
Can you freeze risotto? You can freeze risotto, but not everyone will be satisfied with the resulting change in texture and freshness. Risotto can become harder during the freezing and defrosting process, but it will be safe to eat. If you do not like this texture you can turn frozen risotto into arrancini, a bake, or another dish.
In this article, we will briefly look at what risotto is in order to breakdown exactly how to freeze different kinds of this yummy dish. We will also have a look at different ways to use leftover risotto if you don’t want to freeze it.
What is Risotto?
Risotto is an Italian dish that is made by slowly simmering risotto rice (medium or short grain) in broth until it reaches a creamy consistency. Other ingredients in a traditional (plain) risotto include butter-sautéed onions, seasonings and grated parmesan.
Virtually any risotto can also make an amazing accompaniment to many dishes including stews, salads, bakes, and much more. It is extremely versatile and an absolute must-have dish in your home if it isn’t already.
By using a basic recipe, you can create many different dinners with a variety of flavor profiles such as making a mushroom risotto, seafood risotto or roast vegetable risotto. There aren’t any rules regarding flavors, as long as it compliments each other.
Risotto can also come in various shapes other than the traditional rice form. Arancini (risotto balls) are cooked risotto that has been reduced to achieve a perfect pliable consistency.
The rice is then cooled completely and rolled into bite-sized pieces. Some balls are enclosed around a piece of cheese. The balls are then crumbed with fine bread crumbs and deep-fried until golden brown and crispy. They make great appetizers with almost any dipping sauce.
You do not always have to use rice as the main ingredient in risotto. Trends have shown us many other ingredients we can use to make risotto including farro, lentils or barley. Some people even use cauliflower or zucchini instead!
How to Store Risotto
Risotto is definitely at its best when it is still fresh. Fresh risotto should have a creamy, moist and almost smooth consistency with very prominent flavors coming through.
However, as we said, it is so difficult to make the correct amount. Luckily, risotto is a dish that keeps relatively well in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
Left-over risotto must be stored in an airtight plastic or glass container in the refrigerator. Do not use a metal container as the risotto will absorb metallic flavors and the metal will also impart a grey-ish color.
Because risotto is a type of rice, it can be very hazardous when stored at room temperature after it has been cooked. Spores can grow into bacteria and produce dangerous toxins that can cause severe vomiting or diarrhea.
If you are making risotto in advanced, it is very important to follow these rules with regards to storing in the refrigerator:
- Immediately after the risotto has stopped steaming, place it into the refrigerator.
- Do not cover the container with a lid. Rather wrap the container with saran or plastic wrap and poke a few holes in the top. This will allow the risotto to cool down further without it becoming too dry from the fridge or hazardous.
- Once the risotto has completely cooled, you can place the lid back on the container.
- Store it in an area where there are no ingredients (like onions or garlic) that produce strong odors.
- You can place a label on the container to help you remember when the risotto was made and when it should be used.
Plain risotto (a traditional recipe without other flavorings) will last for around 5 days before becoming a health risk.
Any risotto that contains other ingredients such as meat or vegetables can also be stored but shouldn’t be kept as long as plain risotto. These ingredients also have the potential to create bacteria and go rancid. Keep this type of risotto for a maximum of 3 days in the refrigerator.
If you are making a different dish such as risotto patties or Arancini balls, it depends on what other ingredients they contain.
For example, an item that has been crumbed can be stored in the refrigerator for a short period of time. The items might become soggy and nearly impossible to deep-fry if they are stored for days.
If you made an item such as a patty without any crumb, they can be stored much better and longer before having to use them. Whenever you have to shape risotto, these dishes tend to freeze very well – especially when crumbed.
Remember that the longer you store the rice, in addition to the health risks involved, it also loses flavor and its texture.
Can You Freeze Risotto?
Of course, you will be tempted to freeze the leftover risotto, however, we highly recommend not freezing it if you are expecting it to be close to its’ fresh version.
When the risotto is cooked, the rice grains have absorbed their maximum amount of moisture. If you were to place the rice in the freezer, all that moisture will freeze (forming ice crystals) and the rice grain could become very soggy when defrosted.
Another risk when freezing risotto is it drying out and becoming hard or be a victim of freezer burn which completely ruins it.
That being said, it’s not impossible to freeze risotto if you don’t mind the texture-change too much.
How to Freeze Risotto
When freezing risotto, it is best to freeze the types without any additional ingredients. This is because ingredients freeze and defrost in different ways and could affect the outcome of the risotto.
To freeze plain risotto, follow these steps for the best possible results:
- Once the risotto has stopped steaming, place it in the refrigerator as per the instructions above.
- Once the risotto has cooled completely, place it in air-tight containers or re-sealable bags – make sure that the bags are leak-proof to prevent a watery mess when you eventually defrost the bags. You can also place the bags inside containers when defrosting.
- Place the containers or bags in the freezer and do not move them until they are completely frozen.
- Make sure to label each container or plastic package to remember when the risotto is made and when it should be taken out (2-3 months after being cooked).
The frozen risotto will last around 2-3 months if kept in the correct conditions. Your freezer should not have fluctuating temperatures and as with the fridge, nor any strong odors inside.
Can You Freeze Risotto Balls?
In our opinion, this is actually the best way to use and freeze left-over risotto and the biggest bonus is that these balls are absolutely delicious. They will also take a lot of time off party prepping or meal planning.
These balls (after being crumbed) freeze great as the crumb protects the inside rice from losing any moisture i.e. from being hard and dry after being thawed.
The risotto balls can simply be rolled, then crumbed twice to form an even, strong structure and placed in a single layer into an airtight container or flat tray until they are completely frozen.
Wrap the tray with saran or plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn. You can then place all the balls into one container to save some space.
Once you are ready to use them, simply deep-fry them directly from frozen until they are a beautiful golden brown color and cooked on the inside. You can check the inside by using a thermometer.
The internal temperature should be at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). Place the tip of the skewer in the center of the risotto ball.
The size of the risotto balls will determine how long they will take to completely freeze as well as how long they will take to cook through.
Can You Freeze Pearl Barley Risotto?
Pearl barley is an alternative grain to use instead of rice. It also contains gluten so it is not a safe substitute for people with any gluten sensitivities. Gluten is what gives risotto its creamy consistency.
To freeze pearl barley risotto, you can follow the exact same procedure as with normal risotto.
Simply cool the risotto in the refrigerator and transfer it to a freezer-safe container. Again, make sure there are no odors and label all your containers or bags. It will last around 2-3 months in the freezer or about 3-5 days in the refrigerator.
Tips & Tricks for Freezing Risotto
If you’re going to freeze risotto, check out these tips to have the smoothest process – and the best-tasting risotto – possible.
- When you have a big batch of risotto, instead of waiting hours for it to cool down, place it in a baking sheet in an even layer in the refrigerator so it cools down quickly and evenly.
- If you have a ton of leftover risotto, portion it into bags or containers before freezing them. This will help you choose the correct amount to defrost instead of defrosting the whole batch.
- If you choose to freeze the risotto in bags, place the bags on a flat tray and freeze completely before stacking them neatly. It will save you a ton of freezer space instead of having misshapen packages.
- Do not freeze the risotto in metal ot glass (unless it is freezer-safe glass). Although glass will not affect the risotto, freezing glass makes it very fragile and could cause it to crack. Metal, as we have said before, will affect the taste and color of the risotto.
- If you have a vacuum sealer, this will definitely help with preserving and storing the frozen risotto.
What to do With Leftover Risotto (Instead of Freezing)
Left-over risotto is an extremely forgiving and versatile item that can be used in so many ways.
Arancini (Risotto Balls)
The most obvious recipe to make would be an Arancini (risotto balls) recipe. These are a great appetizer or party snack. You can serve them with a wide variety of sauces and your guests will think you’ve ordered from catering.
Another great idea that is very similar to Arancini, is to form risotto patties. These can either be fried off as is or crumbed like the risotto balls and deep-fried. These are a great substitute for meat patties if you are trying to go vegetarian.
Using leftover risotto to make a delicious tomato and mozzarella bake is absolutely genius! The strong tomato flavors will hide any flaws of day-old risotto including its texture. It works exactly like macaroni and cheese, but instead, you add tomato and mozzarella.
You can also create a wide variety of other bakes. Have a look in your refrigerator for any other leftovers or any vegetables and meats that are not being used.
Risotto al Salto (Crispy Rice Pancakes)
This is a brilliant dish as it uses the dry and firm leftover risotto to its advantage. You take some risotto and mix it with butter and cheese in order to create a batter. Fry portions off at a time to create a crispy, thin pancake and serve for breakfast with a ton of cheese.
Believe it or not, risotto in soup is amazing. It gets rehydrated and provides additional flavors and textures to soups. You can add it to most soups, but make sure the flavors coincide with each other.
We hope this guide to freezing risotto (and alternatives) was useful. Just in case, we’ve included some other questions you may have about this delicious Italian meal.
How Do You Defrost Risotto?
Risotto can be defrosted in a few ways:
- You can allow the risotto to defrost on a plate in the refrigerator overnight.
- If you are short on time you can remove it from any packaging and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Set the microwave to its defrost-setting and add a teaspoon of water every 30 seconds. This will prevent the risotto from completely drying out.
- You can also defrost it in a pot on a very low heat. Keep adding water to help prevent the risotto from sticking to the bottom or becoming too dry.
What Changes Does Risotto Go Through When Freezing?
Like we mentioned, the risotto might become dry when frozen. This will be determined by a ton of factors including how much moisture the cooked risotto had, other ingredients in the risotto, how it was cooled and frozen and the defrosting process.
We recommend experimenting with different techniques and making notes to ensure you remember which work best.
What Are the Health Risks Involved When Freezing Risotto?
Rice contains Bacillus cereus which is a spore that multiplies during cooling. There is a certain temperature range (between around 12-23˚C) that is the prime temperature for these bacteria to multiply.
Thus, if the cooling takes too long and the rice stays in these temperatures too long you could potentially end up with hazardous levels of bacteria. Make sure your risotto is always stored properly!
Can You Freeze Risotto Again?
Under no circumstances should you re-freeze already defrosted risotto. The rice will be exposed to the dangerous temperature zones even more if it is constantly heated, cooled, frozen and defrosted.
This is why there aren’t many foods that can be frozen again after being defrosted. It’s rarely safe!
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