Red Wine Parmesan Risotto

Red Wine Parmesan Risotto
Red Wine Parmesan Risotto

A great risotto is something we often crave and really enjoy making ourselves. This dish is a simplification and modification from the classic Amarone risotto from Verona, Italy. We have adapted this red wine risotto to make it more approachable to make in the USA, and it tastes amazing! Although it lacks the local rice, cheese, and bone marrow found in the classic, these substitutes work well and yield a beautiful purple-hued risotto that is very satisfying. This Red Wine Parmesan Risotto is rich, beautiful and perfect to enjoy on its own or with your favorite protein!

What type of rice is best for risotto?

The type of rice your use to make risotto will ultimately make or break the dish. Bottom line, make sure you buy risotto rice and not just any type of rice you can find. Not all rice is created equal, and there are many upon many types of rice out there that all have a different purpose depending on the dish.

As for the risotto rice, Carnaroli is our favorite, but Vialone Nano, and Arborio also work well. For the classic Amarone risotto in Italy, Vialone Nano is used primarily, but this may not be the easiest to find here in the US, although it is available online. 

We have found that Arborio rice is the most readily available in grocery stores here in America, but we go out of our way to find Carnaroli rice and Vialone Nano. They both produce a creamier texture and have a better overall mouthfeel, in our opinion.

Is risotto hard to make?

Red Wine Parmesan Risotto
Red Wine Parmesan Risotto

Making a creamy risotto is not as daunting or difficult as many people have claimed, but it does not share the same technique as making other types of rice. Although more “hands-on,” making risotto and seeing the starches create a creaminess and consistency to the dish is quite cathartic! Anyone with any type of cooking experience (or none at all) can easily make risotto, it just takes a bit of babysitting compared to other types of rice.

What Type of Stock is Best

We prefer vegetable stock in ours, but you can use any stock you wish. Beef stock is traditional, but we like the color better when using a more neutral-colored stock, and it makes the dish a bit less rich and heavy overall. But generally, you can use vegetable, chicken, beef or even veal stock in this dish.

Flavor Makers

The other flavor component that adds to the richness in this dish, although subtle, is slightly caramelizing the onion. In this dish, it is important in the overall profile of the finished risotto. Because of the dark color, the onions with a bit of color don’t adversely affect how the dish looks at the end either.

Picking A Red Wine

As mentioned, Amarone is the traditional wine choice for this dish in Verona, Italy. But, in North America (and probably many other places outside of Northern Italy) Amarone can be difficult to find and quite expensive. So we chose to substitute a dry, rich red wine in its place to make this dish more approachable.

Red Wine Parmesan Risotto
Risotto made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Parmesan

The wine you choose is very important for the final flavor of the dish. Make sure the wine is not very tannic or acidic, because these characteristics will only be enhanced as the wine reduces. Too much acid in the wine will concentrate and add too much acidity in the risotto. Overly tannic or barrel-aged wines will also produce flavors that, in the end, aren’t nearly as good as using a young, inky, dry wine that has some flavor to it.

Central California coast cabernet sauvignon and Sonoma Zinfandels work well as substitutes for Amarone in this dish. And above all else, always cook with a wine that you also like to drink! The remaining wine not used in the recipe is perfect to drink alongside this risotto when served. 

The Cheese

Make sure to use a good, relatively young Parmesan for best results. And preferably, make sure you use the real Parmigiano Reggiano PDO (Protected Designation of Origin)  from Italy, rather than some imitation version. In order for it to be classified as parmigiano reggiano, it must come from particular regions of Italy and be aged for at least 12 months to get the stamp of approval. You will know it’s the real deal if it is labeled “Parmigiano Reggiano,” and says “made in” or “from” Italy, an Italian region or city on the label, and the label will generally have the PDO classification. 

If the label simply says “Parmesan” and is made somewhere in the US, this is not the real thing, and is not regulated in the same way. 

What to do with leftover risotto?

We, of course, will reheat risotto (either on the stove on low covered, or in the microwave) and just eat it as is. But you can also make these Parmesan Risotto and Mushroom Ragù Phyllo Cup Bites with leftover red wine risotto if you want something a bit more interesting! Also, Arancini (fried risotto balls) are a very popular way to use leftover risotto.


We hope you enjoy this recipe for Red Wine Parmesan Risotto!  If you give this recipe a try, click the heart at the top of this post, leave us a comment and 5-star rating below, or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!

Red Wine Parmesan Risotto
Red Wine Parmesan Risotto

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Red Wine Parmesan Risotto

Cuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time


Total time




  • 18.5 oz 18.5 (550ml) Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel or Amarone red wine

  • 32 oz 32 (1 l) vegetable or chicken stock

  • 2 Tbsp 2 olive oil

  • 5 Tbsp 5 butter, divided

  • ¼ cup (60g) onion, finely chopped

  • 1.5 cups 1.5 (320g) risotto rice (Carnaroli or arborio)

  • 2/3 cup 2/3 (60g) grated Parmesan cheese

  • Kosher salt and pepper

  • Parsley, fresh and finely chopped for garnish


  • In a small saucepan, warm the wine over medium low heat, but do not boil. In a separate saucepan, warm the stock over medium low heat.
  • Heat a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat for a minute, then add the olive oil and 2 Tbsp of the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the onion, and cook until the onion just starts to get some browning, stirring frequently – about 1-2 minutes. Once the onion starts to brown, add the rice, and stir to coat with the oil and butter. Cook for about 3 minutes to barely toast the rice.
  • Next, carefully add about half of the warm wine to the rice. It will steam and bubble immediately. Stir the mixture and let cook for a couple of minutes until most of the wine has been absorbed or evaporates. Add the rest of the wine and, stirring often, cook until most of the wine has been absorbed. Then add a ladle of stock to the rice (one or two at a time), stirring frequently and letting the rice soak up the liquid, scrapping the bottom to ensure the rice doesn’t stick. Adjust the heat lower as needed if your liquid is boiling rapidly. Repeat this process until the rice is firm (al dente) but not crunchy. Do not overcook the rice to a mushy, soft consistency. This should be the right amount of stock to yield perfect risotto, but if you run out of stock before you get the rice cooked properly, you can add a little hot water in its place.
  • Once the rice is done, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 3 Tbsp of butter, the Parmesan cheese, and a pinch of black pepper. Taste and add kosher salt as needed for seasoning. Sprinkle with a little extra Parmesan if desired and some finely chopped fresh Italian parsley and serve.

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