Kasia is a New Yorker that I met through mutual friends from Los Angeles. On her way to yoga class on a busy Manhattan street, she randomly met an Italian living in Paris. She moved to be with him and has been living in Paris for a year now.

Her guy G was cooking for us and I took notes. I think many people would consider risotto a basic dish to make on a weeknight but after a failed risotto experiment, it’s never made my cooking repertoire.

G was nice enough to talk me through the entire process. A northern Italian who grew up among fishermen giving a cooking demo on chicken sage risotto is one of those things that makes me feel lucky to live in Europe. As an American, people who come from tiny villages and make simple home food just seem so exotic to me.

Risotto recipes are easy to find anywhere on the internet so I’m just sticking with the helpful tips that I got for anyone who may have had a traumatic risotto cooking experience.

1. Always start with onion and a decent amount of olive oil.

2. Add protein after and make sure it’s just about cooked before you add the rice.

3. Vegetables go in last (or right before the rice).

4. Always pre-measure the risotto before adding it to the pan, taking the rice-protein ratio into consideration.

5. Have a lot of hot stock prepared. Add about a cup into the pan every few minutes as it simmers.

6. Add in chunks of butter or soft cheese (as G did, since this was a no-butter household) about five minutes before serving to bind everything.

The most interesting nugget of the night: A rule of thumb in Italian cooking is that onion is for risotto and garlic is for pasta.

Another rule of thumb: End risotto night with homemade sciacchetra dessert wine made from host’s tiny Italian village.

Buon appetito!