Risotto is a difficult and time consuming dish to make, one that all too easily results in a heavy, mushy glob. A good deal of patience is required to stand at the stove for half an hour and constantly stir and ladle hot liquid in small increments. But it's well worth the effort. I've embarked on creating the perfect risotto, and while I'm not quite there yet I'm getting closer. Getting that perfect creaminess is a challenge...
Important basic tips:
Use a sturdy pot that retains sufficient heat (my Le Creuset works perfectly). A light-weight pot, such as aluminum, can lead to scorching.
Mise en Place
Since you must stir constantly have your mise en place (all of your ingredients) ready.
Toasting the Rice
Before you add any liquids it is important to toast the grains. Raising the grain's exterior temperature prevents them from falling apart later and seals in the starch. Stir constantly in olive oil and take care not to let the grains brown (about 3-4 minutes). You want them pearly white.
One thing I did not know was the importance of using hot broth, not cold or room temperature. Adding cold liquids to hot rice will leave the center of the grains hard and uncooked. At your liquid at medium-low to medium heat, and use more liquid in the beginning (1/2 to 3/4 cups) then decrease towards the end (1/2 to 1/4 cups) of the cooking process. If you add too much liquid the grains will become overcooked. You want your risotto to be al dente, not soft at the center or mushy on the outside, so keep tasting while you cook. Additionally, use the amount of liquid your recipe calls for as an approximation. You may need more or you may need less. Again, keep tasting.
Vigorously stir butter or olive oil and Parmesan cheese into your risotto. This important last step binds the ingredients together resulting in a creamy texture.