December 21, 2011 | Updated March 15, 2021
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Porcini risotto is one of those ugly delicious meals. Sure, at first it looks like a beige plate of rice porridge, and I suppose it is. But it is so much more than that.
Porcini mushrooms in their various forms and species — they are more of a complex of mushrooms rather than one set species — are widely regarded as the king of all mushrooms. Large, meaty, beautiful. They are loved even by the normally mushroom-phobic English, who call then penny buns.
But the problem with porcini is that everything loves them. Deer, bears, squirrels… and bugs. Lots of bugs. Various species of parasitic flies invade the mushrooms and can render even a seemingly pretty young one useless, fly ridden. Ruined.
So when you find a perfect porcino, which is what you call one of these mushrooms, you want to celebrate it. Porcini risotto is one good way to do that.
Risotto is a Northern Italian way to cook rice that is vaguely like Chinese congee, a rice porridge. You must use short-grained rice that has a lot of a particular sort of starch, which sloughs off as you stir and stir the pot, making your risotto creamy with no cream. Cream does not belong in risotto.
It lends itself to pretty much anything, and I have a great many recipes for risotto on this site, even other mushroom risottos, like my morel risotto and my chanterelle risotto. They are all a bit different from this porcini risotto, but you could switch up mushrooms depending on what you have.
Now, here’s the thing. Fresh porcini are expensive. If you are not a mushroom hunter, this is a special occasion dinner, as they can run upwards of $30 a pound. Those of us who gather them can enjoy this wonderful dish any night of the week in season.
But there’s another way to make porcini risotto, using dried porcini. Dried porcini are much, much cheaper.
If you only have dried porcini, don’t think you are making an inferior risotto — you will have a secret weapon that you would not have had with a fresh porcini risotto. The soaking water.
Use 1 ounce of dried porcini, a typical package. Pour 1 quart of boiling water over them into a bowl. Cover the bowl and let them set 1 hour. Remove and chop the mushrooms small, then strain the water through a paper towel into another bowl to remove all grit and debris.
You now have the stock you need to make your rice.
One other tip. If you happen to have porcini powder on hand, a spoonful really does wonders here. You can buy porcini powder online, but it’s easily made by grinding dried porcini to a powder.
- 1/2 pound fresh porcini mushrooms, diced small
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 cups risotto rice (Carnaroli, Arborio or Vialone Nano)
- 1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon porcini powder (optional)
- 1 quart stock
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Black pepper
- In a large, heavy pot, heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat for 1 minute, then add the shallot and fresh porcini. Sprinkle some salt over them as they cook. Stir often and saute for 6 to 8 minutes. The mushrooms will give up their water at some point, and you want this to mostly boil away.
- Stir in the minced garlic and the rice and saute for another minute or three. Add the dried thyme and the porcini powder, if using.
- Pour the vermouth into the pot and stir it in. It's likely that it will almost immediately evaporate. If so, add 1 cup of the stock. Stir this in. You are now in the work stage of a risotto. You will need to constantly stir and add stock to the rice as it cooks to get that creamy consistency. I stir almost continuously at this point, but you can step away a little bit. Once the liquid is almost gone -- you never want the rice to stick to the bottom of the pot -- add a little more, then a little more, and so on. Sprinkle salt in the pot once or twice as you do this.
- You will likely need more liquid than the quart of stock. Use water from here on in. When the rice is cooked but not mushy, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the parmesan cheese.
- Add a little more water to keep the risotto loose, then spoon it into bowls and grind some black pepper over it.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Is there an easy way to search your site for things like this? I’m going to need to be able to search for some stuff come spring mushroom season etc. I just can seem to find things that easily. I end up having to google “honest food morells” and the like. Any thoughts?
Grilling in Decemeber? Sure, no prob. South-Eastern Wisconsites do it too. 😉
…..But not in shorts.
So, boletus edulis is porcini, I never have hunted for it myself and I didn’t know what it looked like. My parents told me they found and cooked one once but their story was… not inspiring. After consuming the mushroom, my father decided he had misidentified the mushroom and they were going to die (in the mountains, on a backpacking trip). Apparently my father spent time trying to self induce emesis while my mother wrote a good bye letter to us. Thankfully, the first identification was correct. Now I think I may hunt for some porcini afterall.
In a strange way this has brought back good memories.
Kyle: Scroll upwards and you’ll see. I added links to some of my favorite mushroom books up there. David Arora’s “All the Rain Promises and More” as well as his tome “Mushrooms Demystified” are my main books…
what book would you recommend, if any, for mushroom classification? I’ve always been interested in mushroom hunting. thanks
Daniel: I’ve not yet tried elfin saddles, but I want to. Am also looking for the “man on horseback.” How do they taste?
The Roommate has brought home a few beautiful porcini from SF this season, but I’ve been too busy to go out at all (and Rick’s been too busy hunting)!
Good thing I have more than a gallon of boletes dried from last season – should probably get on using ’em!
Funny, just got back with a nice little haul of porcini tonight and checked your blog for inspiration! Same general location as you hunt and same assemblage of other species. I’m wondering if you’ve ever tried elfin saddles?
“Grilling in December? Welcome to CA” My grill stays out all year long over here in Western WI, as I’m sure yours did when you were in this neck of the woods. However, I’m sure our grilling attire is a bit different. Happy Grilling, I can hear some venison tenderloins sizzling in my near future.
Meredith: Consider it baby steps. For years I never even bothered with the Latin, so it’s better than nothing, eh?
If you are going to provide the latin binomial, please do it correctly….the genus part is always capitalized…..Amanita muscaria….but thanks for making sure they are italicized (something I can’t do in the comments section)!
There ought to be a name for porcini envy (cepticemia?). Whatever it is, I have a life-threatening case.
So jealous you can still find mushrooms this late in the year, here in New Hampshire the fall flush of Maitake in October and November marked the end of our mushroom season 🙁
Great tip on using the spongy bits. I had been throwing them away for years. Now, if I can only get over my mushroom envy. I mentioned only half in jest to ButterPowered Bike that we should road trip to CA to mushroom hunt after I read about your haul since I just went on vacation.
Great post, Hank. I’m glad you were able to make it. You really captured the fungal explosion we experienced down there. I seem to have been running my dehydrator for weeks straight. Can you guess what my friends and family will be getting all neatly pack in jars with nice labels on them as Christmas gifts? I’ll be sure to refer them to this post so they will know how to use their present.
You’re welcome to come picking with me any time (so long as you’re willing to put up with me when the full mushroom greed sets in 😉 ). And if you ever change your mind about getting in the water to spear your fish rather than sitting warm and comfortable on a boat and reeling them in, be sure to let me know!
“Heck, I don’t even know what kind of mushrooms grow here in NC.”
I’m in NC around Charlotte and find loads of oysters year round, lots of morels in April (works well with turkey hunting, which is the month of April down here), and scattered chanterelles and boletes in spring and fall. Start with oysters and morels. They’re both easy to identify and almost impossible to mix up with anything toxic. Look for oysters on dead or diseased poplar or willow trees and stumps. Look for morels in creek bottoms and coves where there are poplar trees.
Tease! Fall mushroom season SUUUUUUUUUCKED up here in Seattle. Even for Chanterelles!
I need to take a class on mushrooms so I can go out hunting without taking the risk of killing myself of giving my five year-old hallucinations. I’m so, so jealous. Heck, I don’t even know what kind of mushrooms grow here in NC.
All that aside, as soon as I saw the risotto I groaned with a mixture of pleasure and wanting. I love risotto and can only imagine what it tasted like with the fresh flavor of mushroom. Jealous. I am so jealous.
Hey Hank, great to hear you hit the Porcini bonanza going on. Sorry I missed out. I’m going to have beat Carter for not giving me a call 🙂
“there were still some king boletes to be found if we went south of San Francisco. How far south I cannot tell, only that it was north of Los Angeles…”
j/k looks great, I wish we’d get some fricken rain around here.