Sweet Corn Risotto
This sweet corn risotto truly tastes like summer. Light and creamy, it is perfect for al fresco dining and will have everyone excited about fresh corn season!
(This post is sponsored by Carolina® Rice. All opinions are my own.)
A creamy summer risotto for corn season!
If I could choose one flavor to describe summer, it would be fresh corn. Hands down!
There’s something about standing barefoot in the kitchen, shucking ears of corn, that is incredibly satisfying. Even better if you get the whole family to do it together!
In fact, I get so excited about corn season that I often buy too much corn, if there is such a thing, and end up having to come up with new ways to use it. Oh, poor me! I guess I will have to eat one more corn dish this summer… Twist my arm, won’t ya?!?
That’s how this sweet corn risotto was born. Destined for stardom, to be a recipe you will want to learn by heart – or keep it somewhere easy to find – so you can make all summer long!
In this post you will learn:
- What ingredients you will need.
- What kind of rice is traditionally used to make risotto.
- How to make sweet corn risotto.
- Tips to make the best risotto.
- If frozen or canned corn can be used instead of fresh.
- What pan you will need.
- Serving suggestions.
- Frequently asked questions.
And a printable recipe!
Here’s what you’ll need:
RICE – I’m using Carolina® Arborio Rice for this recipe.
CORN – You can use either yellow or bicolor fresh corn. Despite popular opinion, there is no difference in flavor between them.
SHALLOTS – I like to use shallots when making risotto because they are milder and sweeter than onions. They also have less of a bite and blend better with the consistency of the dish. If all you have are onions, you can use that instead.
WHITE WINE – A splash of white wine adds flavor and a bit of acidity to help balance out the richness. Use a crisp, dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. The alcohol will cook off but you can omit if you prefer.
CHICKEN BROTH – Chicken broth makes this corn risotto a little richer. You can substitute for vegetable broth or, if you have the time, make corn stock for an even stronger corn taste!
BUTTER AND OLIVE OIL – Whenever I’m cooking with butter, I like to add a little olive oil to raise the smoking point of the butter.
PARMESAN – Non negotiable as it adds depth of flavor to this dish. Buy Parmigiano-Reggiano if you can afford it.
CREAM – I’m usually a “no cream in my risotto” gal. But here it pairs beautifully with the sweet corn, making this dish richer and extra creamy! I use heavy cream, but you can substitute for half and half if you want to make it a little lighter.
BASIL – I absolutely love the combination of corn and basil! And it gives the dish an extra touch of freshness. You can use chopped parsley instead, if you prefer.
SALT – Lightly salt as you cook and then taste and adjust at the end.
WHITE PEPPER – White pepper is less complex than black pepper, so it doesn’t overpower the dish as much. I like to use it in light-colored dishes for aesthetic reasons. Use black pepper if that’s what you have on hand!
What rice is used for risotto?
Risotto is traditionally made of Italian short or medium-grain rice varieties, like Arborio, Carnaroli, Vialone, Nano and Baldo.
The most commonly found variety in the U.S. is the arborio, a pearly and round medium grain rice with the highest starch level of all the Italian varieties.
Before getting my hands on a bag of Carolina® Arborio Rice, I used to have to take a trip to a famous Italian store in NYC to buy imported risotto rice. Not anymore!
My friends at Carolina® did a great job by crafting the perfect arborio rice for this Italian food snob. It produces the tastiest, creamiest mouthfuls, while also offering the optimal texture to absorb lots of stock which results in a risotto that is creamy but al dente!
How to make corn risotto
Risotto gets quite a bad reputation, often known as something tedious and difficult to master.
Because of that, most people are intimidated and prefer to get their risotto fix at their local Italian restaurants.
If you are here, reading this post, it probably means you are: 1) not intimidated and a risotto pro, or 2) ready to overcome your fears and make a delicious corn risotto this summer!
If you are the latter, you will be glad to know what risotto is not difficult to make and that I am highly confident that anyone can master it!
While you will need to give it a little attention by gently stirring often, at the end of the day it is just rice and broth. Nothing intimidating about that!
Here’s how I make sweet corn risotto. As always, you will find the printable (and more complete) version of the recipe at the end of this post!
Step 1: Prep and Cook the corn.
- Strip the corn kernels off the cob. In my opinion, the best way to do that is to place the cob inside a bowl, so the kernels don’t fly everywhere. I like to place a small bowl upside-down inside a larger bowl and use it to stand the corn (cut side down) so I have the space to slice down along the cob with a sharp knife. (Photo 1)
- Cook the corn until tender. (Photo 2) Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Reserve.
- Blend some of the corn with the cream. Place 1/3 of the cooked corn with the heavy cream in the jar of your blender. Blend until smooth. (Photo 3) Reserve.
Step 2: Cook the risotto
- Heat the broth in a saucepan until simmering. Lower the heat to keep it hot while you cook the risotto.
- Sauté the shallots in butter and oil. (Photo 4) Add the rice and stir so all the grains are coated with the fat. Sauté for a minute to toast the rice slightly. (Photo 5) Season with salt and white pepper.
- Add the white wine and cook until fully absorbed.
- Add the broth, one ladleful at a time, stirring gently and occasionally, until fully absorbed before adding more. Continue adding the broth – just enough to completely cover the grains – until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite. This should take about 17 to 20 minutes. (Photo 6)
Step 3: Add final ingredients
- Remove the pan off the stove and add the parmesan cheese and cold butter. Stir vigorously, until the butter has melted. (Photo 7)
- Add the reserved creamed corn and corn kernels. (Photo 8) Stir gently until incorporated. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Garnish with fresh basil and serve! (Photo 9)
- Blending some of the corn with the heavy cream gives the dish a more pronounced corn flavor.
Tips for the best corn risotto you will ever make:
- Don’t rinse the rice! We want all the starch that we can get, because starch = creaminess.
- Don’t overcook the corn. Cooking the corn first and then reserving to add it back to the risotto at the end ensures that it keeps a bit of a bite and doesn’t get mushy.
- Keep your broth hot. If you add cold broth to the hot pan, it will cool the risotto down and the rice won’t cook evenly.
- Stir occasionally but not too much. Stirring the rice is important, because the risotto’s creaminess comes from the starch that results from the grains of rice rubbing against each other. But if you stir constantly, you risk cooling the risotto down and making it gummy.
- Only add more broth once all the liquid is absorbed. Again, we want to give the rice grains a chance to rub against each other to release starch.
- Be patient and don’t try to cheat the game! Medium-low is the way to go. You want the risotto to simmer gently and not boil too quickly, otherwise it won’t cook properly and will end up under or overcooked. Too low of a heat is not good either, and the risotto will take forever to cook.
- Overcooked risotto rice is gummy and unappetizing. You want the rice to be al dente, meaning it still has a bit of firmness when you bite it.
- Add the final ingredients, like butter and cheese, off the heat. We want them to slowly melt and emulsify, giving the risotto the creaminess that makes it special! If you add it over heat, the fat might break and affect the dish’s final texture.
Can I use frozen or canned corn instead?
Yes, although fresh corn is preferred, you can make this risotto with either frozen or canned corn. Just be aware that they might have salt added, so you will need to use less salt in your dish!
If using frozen corn, no need to thaw. Just add it frozen to the pan and it will defrost while it cooks.
What is the best pan for cooking risotto?
I was also this close to spending big bucks on a so called “risotto pan”.
The good news is you can make risotto with whatever pan you have at home! As you become more accustomed to making it, you will eventually prefer one pan over the other.
I like to use a heavy bottomed high-sided skillet. The heavy bottom distributes the heat evenly and the high sides will prevent the liquid from evaporating too quickly (which often happens if you cook risotto in a shallow skillet) but fast enough that the risotto won’t overcook.
Make sure the pan is wide enough for the amount of rice you are cooking, so you have room for stirring and so the broth is evaporating at about the same rate that the rice is cooking, which leaves behind a concentration of starch that will result in a creamier risotto.
What to serve with corn risotto
This risotto works both as a light main entree or as a side for fish, meat or chicken.
In Italy, risotto is often served as a first course (primo piatto) – a hot food course that is heavier than the antipasto but lighter than the second course – or contorno (side dish) for the second course.
How much risotto per person?
A good rule of thumb is to calculate 65g (1/3 cup) of uncooked risotto rice per person if serving as a side or as a first course.
If the risotto is the main dish, you will want to calculate more generous portions, like 95g (1/2 cup).
Frequently Asked Questions
Risotto is best enjoyed freshly made. If you cook it completely and reheat it, it gets overcooked and mushy.
If you must prepare ahead, I would parcook it, meaning cooking it until it’s about halfway done and still firm inside. You can then spread it out on a baking sheet to stop cooking and cool. Finish cooking when ready to serve.
So you know your risotto texture will be affected when reheated, but what do you do if you have leftovers?
Well, you can make arancini! And these corn risotto makes amazing arancini balls.
But if you don’t mind eating risotto that is not al dente, you can reheat it on the stove, in a saucepan, adding a little heavy cream, broth or water to loosen it up and make it creamy again. A little cold butter at the end also helps with creaminess!
I don’t recommend freezing risotto, as rice does not freeze well and gets mushy when thawed and reheated.
Did you make this recipe? I love hearing from you! Please comment and leave a 5-star rating below. You can also take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #oliviascuisine.
Sweet Corn Risotto
- 3 ears of corn, shucked
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano), plus more for serving
- Fresh basil, for garnishing
- Cut the corn kernels off the cobs (see notes). In a heavy-bottomed high-sided skillet, over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the corn kernels and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and transfer 1/3 of the cooked corn to the jar of a blender. Reserve the remaining corn in a bowl.
- Pour the heavy cream in the blender with the corn. Blend until smooth. Reserve.
- In a medium sauce pan, heat the broth over medium high heat, until simmering. Lower the heat to the lowest setting to keep the broth warm while you cook the risotto.
- Place the skillet back on the stove, over medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter has melted, add the minced shallots and sauté until softened, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the arborio rice and stir to coat in the fat. Cook for about a minute, or until the rice is toasty and releasing a nutty aroma but not browned. Season with a pinch of salt and white pepper. Pour in the white wine and cook until fully absorbed, about 1 minute.
- Add a ladleful of broth to the rice, stirring occasionally so the rice doesn’t stick to the pan, but not too often or it will cool and not cook evenly. Once the liquid is absorbed, add the next ladleful, repeating this process until the rice is cooked through but al dente, about 17-20 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Add the remaining butter and parmesan cheese, stirring vigorously to melt the butter and emulsify it into the risotto.
- Gently stir in the reserved creamed corn and corn kernels. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Garnish with fresh basil and serve warm!