Red Wine Risotto (no cheese)

This simple red wine risotto without cheese is an easy risotto recipe where red wine is the key flavour element. For that reason we’re using slightly more wine here than in other risotto recipes. The result is a rich and velvety red wine risotto with a distinctive aroma and a vibrant colour.

And yes, this risotto has no cheese. Strange it may seem, but it works. The addition of cheese to risotto has the double effect of providing flavour and texture. But by skipping it I promise we’re not losing on either. We really want to give red wine a place in the spotlight here when it comes to flavour. As for texture, the right type of rice and a small addition of butter at the end will do the job. Trust me on this one.

Simple red wine risotto topped with fresh thyme.

Does red wine go with risotto?

YES! Not only does red wine go with risotto, but in this very recipe red wine is the main ingredient after the rice. White wine is used in 90% of risotto recipes, but this does not mean that red wine does not work. The reason why white wine is so largely preferred is because it generally imparts a lower mark on the final flavour profile of the dish. Moreover, often risotto calls for another primary ingredient (mushrooms, asparagus, etc.), so wine plays a supporting role.

Can I use red wine instead of white in risotto? Only if the recipe calls for it, like this radicchio risotto. If the recipe calls for white, stick with white. But in this case red wine is what we want. In this risotto recipe red wine is the primary ingredient. We want something bold, with a lasting flavour. The alcohol evaporates, but the actual flavour remains. And so does the colour. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Red wine risotto ingredients

The ingredients needed in this recipe arraged on a wooden table.

  • Risotto rice – for risotto we need a type of rice that withstands this type of preparation. In this photo shoot I have used Carnaroli.
  • Red wine – more on this below, my choice was Californian Merlot.
  • Red onion – the other flavour provider, and we’re obviously going for red here, too.
  • Stock – for this bold risotto I prefer chicken or beef stock, but vegetable one works very well, too.
  • Dried thyme – this little herb does something magic when combined with red wine.
  • Olive oil – to be used at the beginning to sweat the onion. Olive oil has a higher smoke point than butter and we want to sweat the onion for 10 minutes, so this is the perfect ingredient.
  • Butter – added at the end will perfect the final texture.
  • Salt & pepper to taste – add or not depending on how flavourful your stock is.

An overview of the recipe with step by step images follows. Please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of the post for quantities.

How to make red wine risotto

  • Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy duty pot on medium heat. Peel and mince the red onion and add it to the pot. Sauté the red onion for 10 minutes on medium heat, the goal is to properly sweat it rather than brown it. I like to mince my onion coarsely, to have some onion bits here and there, and we want to make sure they get completely soft. If it starts to brown reduce the heat.
  • When the onion is soft add the rice to the pan. Toast the rice stirring constantly for a couple of minutes (picture below, left).
  • Pour in all the wine and increase the heat to medium-high (picture below, centre). Stir to distribute and keep cooking until the wine gets absorbed, the rice releases some of the starch and the whole mixture starts to take a creamy texture (picture below, right).
  • Have the pot of stock on another burner and keep it warm. When the wine has absorbed, start adding the stock in batches. Depending on the size of your pot you may need to add 1 or 2 cups at a time, anyway you should add enough to cover the rice (picture below, left). Lower the heat to medium-low and let simmer, stirring from time to time. When the rice has absorbed the stock (after about 10 minutes) repeat. Keep adding the stock in batches until you either run out of it or your rice has cooked through – taste it from time to time.
  • When the rice has cooked through, let the last addition of stock properly evaporate, always stirring to make sure it will not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the butter (picture below, centre), this will notably improve the texture of your risotto. It is now ready to be plated and served (picture below, right).

Which wine is best for risotto?

Risotto is the number one recipe I make whenever I have wine leftovers in a bottle. Call me picky but I will not drink any wine that has been sitting around for too long in an opened bottle. Let a few days pass after opening a bottle of wine and its content will be downgraded from drink to cooking ingredient.

Which is not a bad thing at all. Because it allows me to try different types of wine in my food rather than just relying on the cheapest option because why spend on wine that ends up being cooked. And also, as a general rule you should always cook with a wine you’d enjoy to drink. So buying el cheapo wine just for cooking is, in fact, not a very good idea.

So if you have leftovers of whatever you’ve been drinking, I’m sure it will work great in this recipe. Actually, make it several times with different wines and you’ll taste the difference every time. However, if you don’t have leftovers at hand and you need to shop for this recipe, I’d recommend something with a medium-full body and a moderate acidity. I’m thinking Merlot, Sangiovese or even Shiraz.

Wines that have been significantly aged – especially barrel aged – are generally not recommended in cooking, also because if their price tag. But in this specific case we could make an exception. Red wine here is the main ingredient (yep, it’s not rice, nossir) so if you have a fancy one at hand and feel like trying it, you will only get a fantastic risotto. Amarone risotto or Châteauneuf-du-Pape risotto? Yass queen!

Closeup view of red wine risotto.

Make it vegan (or allergy-friendly)

So being this red wine risotto a cheeseless one, it’s actually very easy to adapt it and turn it into a vegan risotto. In fact, you only need to make 2 small adjustments:

  • use a vegetable stock;
  • use vegan butter.

Besides counting no cheese among its ingredients, this risotto is quite low in its butter content, too. And butter is mostly added for texture than flavour. So swapping dairy butter for a plant-based alternative will work just as well in this risotto.

Risotto is one of my favourite gluten free Italian recipes. Everyone always thinks pasta pasta pasta but I’m a northerner and I was raised on risotto. If you have guests who need a meal that is gluten free, easily adaptable to dairy free and vegan, too, this is it. This is the Italian recipe you will want to serve them.

Red wine risotto served in a beige bowl.

Other risotto recipes

If you have enjoyed this red wine risotto you may want to try my other risotto recipes:

If you made my recipe I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave me a comment letting me know what kind of red wine you have used. Pin this recipe for later:

This recipe was originally published in February 2017 and has been updated with new pictures, better wording and a recipe card in May 2021.

 

Simple red wine risotto topped with fresh thyme.
5 from 9 votes
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Red wine risotto

A no-cheese red wine risotto where wine is the main flavour. This rich and creamy risotto has the colour and flavour of bold red wine, for a risotto twist full of flavour.

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword red wine risotto, risotto recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 3 people
Calories 549 kcal
Author Eva | Electric Blue Food

Ingredients

  • 300 g Carnaroli rice
  • 300 ml red wine
  • 1 red onion large, or 2 small
  • 1 L stock meat preferred
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp thyme dried
  • 20 g butter

Instructions

  1. Bring the stock to a boil, then keep it on a low heat throughout the recipe as you want to be adding it warm.

  2. Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy duty pot. Peel and mince the red onion and add it to the pot. Sweat the red onion for 10 minutes on medium heat. If it starts to brown reduce the heat.

  3. When the onion is soft add the rice to the pan. Toast the rice stirring constantly for a couple of minutes.

  4. Add the wine and increase the heat to medium-high. Stir to distribute and keep cooking until the wine gets absorbed, the rice releases some of the starch and the whole mixture takes on a creamy texture.

  5. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the stock in batches, every time just enough to cover the rice. Depending on the size of your pot you may need to add 1 or 2 cups at a time. Stir from time to time to distribute the heat and check. When a stock addition has been absorbed, add the next. Proceed until you have added all the stock or the rice has cooked through (check the rice after 30 minutes).

  6. When the rice has cooked through, let the last addition of stock properly evaporate, always stirring to make sure it will not stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Serve right away.

Recipe Notes

  • The quantities in this recipe yield 3 portions if having risotto as main course, 4-5 portions if having it as a side dish.
  • Use any red wine you would enjoy to drink, preferably a dry one with a medium body and a moderate acidity. Avoid sweet or barrel aged wines.
  • The nutritional information provided is an estimate from an online calculator and is only meat as a guideline.
Nutrition Facts
Red wine risotto
Amount Per Serving
Calories 549 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 4g25%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 14mg5%
Sodium 1386mg60%
Potassium 205mg6%
Carbohydrates 86g29%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 885IU18%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 13mg1%
Iron 5mg28%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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31 Comments

    1. Eva February 4, 2017 at 16:00

      Oh I can imagine what a delicious twist the chorizo can give it!

      Reply
    1. Eva February 4, 2017 at 16:00

      Thank you! The great wine I used takes all the credit 😀

      Reply
  1. Christina February 7, 2017 at 14:17

    your recipe sounds amazing and the dish looks great too! I have never tried risotto with red wine before so I will give it a try next them when I have an open bottle of red wine left 🙂

    Reply
    1. Eva February 9, 2017 at 10:27

      Thank you. I had so many people react to this like, “Wine leftovers? How can you ever have any?”. I’m guilty of not always getting to the end of the bottle, so this is the perfect excuse to make risotto. Please make it next time you have leftovers, you’ll love it! You can sub the meat broth for a veggie one no problem 😉

      Reply
      1. Christina February 11, 2017 at 15:33

        great, I will try that 🙂

        Reply
  2. David Scott Allen June 6, 2021 at 23:22

    Thanks for this, Eva! I know we are going to love it, and I’ve never had a pure red wine risotto before, though I’ve heard of it. We just got some beautiful race as a gift from Italy, so this seems the perfect way to use it.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 13, 2021 at 11:08

      Thanks David! You’re gonna love it!

      Reply
  3. veenaazmanov June 9, 2021 at 20:04

    5 stars
    Have to definitely try this flavorful Red Wine Risotto. Sounds very innovative and unique. Perfect try for the weekend.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 13, 2021 at 11:12

      Thank you Veena!

      Reply
  4. Katie Crenshaw June 9, 2021 at 20:23

    5 stars
    Give me an excuse to open a good bottle of red wine, and I am in! This would be so good paired with a filet or ribeye. The color is beautiful. The richness of the butter, risotto, and wine make a delicious combination.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 13, 2021 at 11:13

      Hi Katie! Yes, definitely a great side to red meat!

      Reply
  5. Linda June 11, 2021 at 07:44

    5 stars
    Wait…no cheese, but more wine? I’m sold! Love this easy risotto recipe and thyme does make this risotto extra delicious

    Reply
    1. Eva June 13, 2021 at 11:14

      Hi Linda! Yes, thyme really works well paired with red wine!

      Reply
  6. Brianna June 12, 2021 at 19:13

    5 stars
    This red wine risotto had a great depth of flavor and is the perfect side to beef tenderloin. Your recipe was very easy to follow too.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 13, 2021 at 11:15

      Thank you Brianna! Yes it definitely pairs nicely with red meat!

      Reply
  7. silvia June 12, 2021 at 21:23

    I usually don’t add cheese to my risotto so this is down my alley. The aromas of the wine and the spices were amazing. I served it with tri-tip and it was so good!!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 13, 2021 at 11:16

      Hi Silvia! Glad to hear you liked my no-cheese risotto!

      Reply
  8. Loreto and Nicoletta June 13, 2021 at 06:28

    5 stars
    This recipe reminds me of a dish I had in Italy called Drunken Spaghetti. It is done with red wine, and it was absolutely fabulous!. Thank you for sharing this Risotto dish, love the color and can only imagine the flavor! Well done!😋🥰👌❤👍🙏

    Reply
    1. Eva June 13, 2021 at 11:16

      Hi Loreto and Nicoletta! I’m intrigued, I have to look up the drunken spaghetti you mention now!

      Reply
  9. Amanda Dixon June 13, 2021 at 23:32

    5 stars
    This red wine risotto turned out fabulous! It’s truly the most perfect date night meal. It was so flavorful, and we we definitely make it again!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 14, 2021 at 20:26

      Thank you Amanda!

      Reply
  10. Jen June 14, 2021 at 03:19

    5 stars
    I am always quite nervous when it comes to making risotto as I never get the consistency or texture right. However, your recipe was super easy to follow and delicious! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 14, 2021 at 20:26

      Thank you Jen! That’s great to hear and I’m happy you were happy with my recipe!

      Reply
  11. Moop Brown June 14, 2021 at 13:50

    5 stars
    I appreciate how easy to make this recipe is and that vegan alternatives were provided as well. Looking forward to making this one!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 14, 2021 at 20:27

      Thank you for your words Moop!

      Reply
  12. Nicole June 15, 2021 at 06:40

    This recipe has me quite intrigued. I love risotto and love red wine, but never thought to combine the two. I imagine this would be a great side to a beef tenderloin! Cannot wait to try this.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 15, 2021 at 08:58

      Hi Nicole! Hope you get a chance to give it a try. It really is a nice side to red meat!

      Reply
  13. Heidy L McCallum June 15, 2021 at 14:38

    5 stars
    I made this Red wine risotto over the weekend, and it came out perfect! Thanks to all your tips, this is a no-fail recipe, and we will be making it again! Have a wonderful day!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 15, 2021 at 14:44

      Thanks for letting me know Heidy! Glad to hear it turned out well!!

      Reply

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