One of the tricky things about making rice, especially risotto, is how you can never seem to make the exact amount needed. There is either not enough or way too much, the latter, we find, 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 minutes, the whole pot could be burnt and gross and ruined.
The dish is delicious and simple in its makeup but it requires a little bit of patience and elbow grease.
Then, to get to the end of cooking and serving and realize you and your guests barely made a dent in the still-steaming pot of risotto? Something must be done!
The biggest solution is probably just to tuck it away in the freezer, but is that even possible?
So, can you freeze risotto? You can freeze risotto! It’s storable in the freezer for up to 3 months while still being edible. Unfortunately, risotto does undergo serious textural changes when unthawed. Frozen or chilled risotto is able to be used in a variety of different recipes, including the iconic Italian dish Arancini.
In this article, we will briefly look at what risotto is in order to break down exactly how to freeze different kinds of this tasty Italian dish. We will also have a look at different ways to use leftover risotto.
What is Risotto?
Risotto, in its most basic form, is an Italian dish that is made by slowly simmering risotto rice (traditionally either Carnaroli or Arborio) in white wine and chicken/vegetable stock until it reaches a creamy consistency.
Other ingredients in a traditional (plain) risotto include sautéed onions and grated parmesan.
This is an extremely versatile recipe and an absolute must-have recipe in your home if it isn’t already. It can be a side-dish but it really shines best as the main course.
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 a roasted vegetable risotto.
Outside of a traditional recipe, there aren’t any rules regarding flavors, so feel free to experiment and get creative!
You also do not always have to use rice as the main ingredient in risotto. Many other ingredients can be used 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, making the correct amount is a tricky task. 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 turn a grey-ish color.
Because risotto is a type of rice, it can go bad very easily when stored at room temperature after it has been cooked. Spores can grow into bacteria and produce dangerous, off-putting mold.
If you are making risotto in advance, make sure to follow these rules when storing it in the refrigerator:
- 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.
- Once the risotto has completely cooled, you can cover it completely with saran wrap or a lid.
- Store it in an area where there are no ingredients 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.
Traditional risotto will last for around 5 days in the fridge.
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 have the potential to create bacteria and go rancid. Keep this type of risotto for a maximum of 3 days in the refrigerator.
Remember that the longer risotto is stored the more flavor and texture it loses.
Can You Freeze Risotto?
Of course, the ideal solution is just to freeze the whole batch of 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 all the moisture they need.
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 and tough to eat.
That being said, it is still possible to freeze risotto, and there are some measures you can take to mitigate how much the thawed risotto differs from its fresh counterpart.
How to Freeze Risotto
When freezing risotto, it is best to freeze recipes that don’t have any additional ingredients. Different ingredients freeze and defrost in different ways, so it 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.
- After the risotto has cooled completely, place it in an air-tight container or re-sealable bags. Make sure that the bags are leak-proof to prevent a watery mess when you eventually defrost your risotto. 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 or any strong odors inside.
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 great substitute for people with any gluten sensitivities.
To freeze pearl barley risotto, you can follow the 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 strong odors in your fridge/freezer, 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, make sure to implement these tips for the easiest and best-tasting risotto possible.
- If 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. 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 or 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.
- Using a vacuum sealer 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 different recipes. Here are a few of our favorites that we’ve tried and love!
Arancini (Risotto Balls)
Perhaps the easiest and most iconic recipe to make would be Arancini, a classic Italian dish that is, essentially, deep-fried risotto balls. This party snack is crispy, warm, and best served with a warm tomato sauce.
These are an incredible deep-fried Sicilian snack. Andrew Rea from the Babish Culinary Universe has a comprehensive video on all things risotto, including the aforementioned Arancini!
Can You Freeze Arancini?
In our opinion, this is actually the best way to use and freeze left-over risotto.
Arancini freezes great as the outer layer protects the inside rice from losing any moisture.
Make sure to wrap the container 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°F (35°C) 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.
Another great idea is to form risotto cakes. These can either be fried as is or tossed in breading like Arancini and deep-fried. They’re a great substitute for meat patties if you are trying to go vegetarian and they are ridiculously tasty.
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.
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. Start off by taking some risotto and mixing it together with butter and cheese in order to create a batter.
Fry small portions to create a crispy, thin pancake best served during 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 first complement each other well.
We hope this guide to freezing risotto 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 different 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 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 can become dry or brittle when frozen.
This will be determined by many factors including how much moisture the cooked risotto had, other ingredients in the risotto, how it was cooled, and the defrosting process.
We recommend trying out a few of the different techniques we listed earlier and seeing which ones work best for you.
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.
So, 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?
You should absolutely avoid re-freezing 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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