The following recipe makes about 6 (abundant) portions.
In a large pan bring water to a boil. You will need a lot of water for that much rice, no less than half a gallon. Add the beef cubes and let simmer. If you know how to do it, you can prepare the beef stock yourself, but that of course would take a very long time. Regularly, I use cubes.
Meanwhile, cut the onion in very small pieces. In a very large pan, fry the onion in the butter, until the onion is golden brown. Remember to stir constantly, otherwise the onion will burn. The process should take around 10-15 minutes, may be more, depending on the power of your fires and on the quantity of onions. When the onion is golden, add the rice all at once at stir it briskly so that it absorbs the butter. Immediately add the wine or liquor and stir until the wine is evaporated. Remeber to stir quickly during these last processes, otherwise the rice will stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
Start adding the beef broth, which is simmering in the other pan. You should not add it all at once, but a little at a time. The rice should be covered by the broth, but not much more. Doing so, by the way, will allow you to use the right quantity of water, wich may vary from rice to rice etc. The broth you are adding must be boiling too, otherwise you would cool the rice. From now on just keep stirring often (to avoid sticking) and let the rice absorb the broth, adding it from time to time. If you finish the broth, and you need more, add hot water, and may be a cube directly in the rice. Also remember to add salt and pepper (I suggest you do not exceed, they can be added to every plate according to taste. I don't like very salty things, but some people do, so make sure you tell your guests to add salt and pepper as needed, otherwise they may feel that the thing lacks flavor.)
The rice should be ready in 20 minutes from the moment you start pouring the broth. Just taste it from time to time. When ready, switch the gas off, and add a lot of grated parmesan cheese. Serve hot, putting on the table also the parmesan cheese and the salt, so that people can adjust to their taste.
It is better to serve the risotto in warm plates (you can simply put them in the oven), so the rice doesn't cool too much. However, when taken out of the fire, the rice will be extremely hot, and I have noticed the tendency of foreigners to burn their tongue as the quickly put the rice into their mouth. This is a must, you don't want to burn your guests' tongue: warn them to be careful. To cool down the rice a little bit, the guest can spread it all over the plate, wait for a few seconds, or pick up only a very tiny bit with the fork. This may not be the most polite thing to do, but it works.
This is the basic recipe. But you should always add
one or more ingredients. The typical recipe in Milan
Here are some examples. Basically, most types of veggie or of sausage work. In my hometown, a traditional version called paniscia has beans and sausages.
Note: if you want the taste of the other ingredient to shine through, use less strong broth (ie, use less or even no cubes)
Just follow the same steps as above and anytime after you have added the broth for the fist time (and before cooking is complete), add the saffron. This is the most typical form of risotto, and everyone should try it at least once, possibly with the addition of mushrooms (see below).