Risotto has long been one of my favorite dishes. It is something that can be a wonderful primo piatto all year round; you can make it seasonally with different ingredients.
Although I grew up in an Italian-American household, we didn't eat much risotto. I think that's because when my grandparents immigrated to New York from Emilia Romagna between 1915 and 1925, rice wasn't common all over the Italian peninsula. However, over the years, Italians have come to appreciate their delicious rice and have developed a wealth of delicious ways to prepare and serve them - but the base of the risotto is always the same.
Rice is grown throughout Italy, but mainly in Lombardy and Piedmont, where the flat Padano plain allows the fields to be regularly flooded, which is necessary for the development of the plants. It is believed that the Padano came to Italy from the Near and Far East around the time of the Renaissance and was revered as a very expensive medicine.
Today Italy is Europe's number one rice producing country, with the most popular varieties being Carnaroli and Arborio. Carnaroli is the preferred type of rice for risotto. Its higher starch content makes it creamier and it doesn't boil over as easily. There are also wonderful offshoots of the brown arborio, black risotto rice (called Riso Venere or Venus rice), red rice and all kinds of other rice specialties.
What sets risotto apart from all other rice dishes is its richness. It has all the qualities of a good comfort dish. It has its own creaminess and deliciousness. There's something decadent about risotto. It can be cooked in a number of ways and there are always discussions about whether or not to stir it all the time. I am part of the agitator camp, but I am not exaggerating. I keep an eye on it while I prepare the other dishes, making sure it hits the optimal point where creaminess and the perfect "al dente" bite cross.
In addition to the Carnaroli rice, I use Hokkaido squash which has the added benefit of having an edible shell.
What to do in advance:
Make a vegetable broth. Don't offend your risotto by making the wrong broth with diced onion! Cut a bunch of carrots, celery and onions and place them in a large stock pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer for 90 minutes with the lid closed. Drain the vegetables and save the liquid. You will need about 2 quarts or 2.5 liters, but make at least double that amount and put the rest in the freezer for the next risotto.
Fry the pumpkin. I use 2 small Hokkaido pumpkins for 4 servings of risotto. Cut the pumpkins into pieces (and remove the seeds), spread them on a baking sheet and sprinkle them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Fry the pumpkins at 180 degrees Celsius for about 30-40 minutes until you can prick them easily with a fork. Let them cool, then mash them with a fork and transfer the mashed pumpkin to a bowl.It shouldn't be a puree, but rather crushed pumpkin !!
For four servings for dinner:
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups of Carnaroli or Arborio rice
2 small toasted, crushed pumpkins
about 2-2 1/2 liters of homemade vegetable broth
1 large, finely chopped onion
1 cup of white wine
2 sprigs of rosemary, neatly picked and finely chopped
< br> 2 good handfuls of rocket (rocket / rocket)
Salt and pepper to taste
For non-vegans: 5 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of grated Reggiano Parmigiano
In a large pan (I use a wok), heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Once the onion has turned translucent, add the rice. Stir with a wooden spoon. Roasting the rice is very important because it allows the starch to get just below the surface of the rice grains and the broth to penetrate more easily.
Once the rice is toasted (you'll notice it makes a slightly different, pearly sound - don't let it burn!) add the white wine and stir. Allow the wine to boil down almost completely.
Add a ladle full of vegetable stock while stirring. Keep the heat on medium level. As soon as the broth is soaked up, pour in more ladles. This process takes about 25 minutes and cannot be shortened. The rice needs to slowly soak up the broth.
Occasionally bite into a piece of rice. It has to have a little resistance, but also be creamy. This is the case after about 20 minutes. You can now season your risotto with salt and pepper. Do this slowly. Do not exaggerate.
When the rice is "almost ready," add the pumpkin and rosemary, plus a ladle full of broth. Let the rice take on a little color, then add the butter and cheese if you want. Add another ladle of broth. You should now have the optimal consistency.
Keep some broth aside.
You really should serve the risotto right away. If that's not possible and you need to warm it up a bit, use the broth that you set aside to feed the risotto and make it softer.
I prefer to serve risotto in deep, lavish serving bowls, never on a plate! Risotto is about coziness, and bowls are cozy.
Refine your risotto with some arugula leaves and a splash of olive oil.
As you can see from this recipe, making risotto is all about loving and respecting the ingredients, pampering them so that something rich and special is created. It's time consuming and that's how it should be. This is just one of the many ways to make risotto, but the basis is always the same. Good rice, good oil, good broth.