I don't know about you, but I love risotto. There is something about that creamy, flavorful, luxurious side dish that initiates a Pavlovian response just thinking about it. Whoops! There I go again.
One of the best things about risotto is that it is truly the "make-it-up-as-you-go" dish. Because the main concern of consistency is taken care of with the gradual addition of broth until you reach the perfect point, most of the ingredient components can be changed on a whim.
There are, however, a few ingredients that are essential, I think, to good risotto. Broth is a must and the better the broth quality, the better your end result. I like to use both arborio (short-grain) rice and orzo pasta to achieve a nice balanced flavor and texture. Additionally, I'm not sure you can have risotto without a little cream and Parmesan cheese. Other than that, though, it's all fair game. My favorite combination is portobello mushrooms, onion, and herbs. I also really like the addition of green peas, but somehow I ran out the other night. But that's the great thing about risotto! It didn't matter... just use what you've got.
To get things started, you want to brown some of the ingredients to get the flavors going. Melt some butter in a large sauce pan and brown the aromatics (onions, garlic, mushrooms, and similar ingredients). When the are lightly browned, add the pasta and rice. Stir and brown for a few minutes more. Add any herbs or other flavorings that can take some cooking (for instance, don't add green peas until the last minute, but carrots, for instance, would be all right). Add enough warm broth to barely cover the mixture and simmer.
Keep an eye on it and add small splashes of broth as needed to keep things moist. Taste periodically to see where you're at. When the pasta and rice are nice and creamy, stop adding broth. Add a splash of cream, some Parmesan cheese, and any finishing seasonings that are required (salt and pepper especially). Serve and enjoy! It's that simple!