Risotto is a traditional North Italian dish, made with a soft short-grained rice, for example, Arborio rice. This rice has a very high starch content, making for a thick and creamy texture in the finished product. You cannot make a successful risotto using long-grained rice, however hard you try.
First the rice is sauteed in olive oil or butter to begin the cooking process, then liquid (stock and/or white wine) is added slowly, stirring continuously. The stirring helps to break down the grains and release more starch. Flavourings can be added either at the start (onions, chopped chicken, etc.) or towards the end (parmasen or grated cheese, spinach etc) depending on how long they need to cook. The actual rice will be cooked in about twenty minutes, making this a fairly quick if labour-intensive dish.
Risotto - a basic recipe (with variations)