Risotto has long been one of my favorite dishes. It's something that can be a wonderful primo piatto all year round; you can make it seasonal 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 everywhere on the Italian peninsula. Over the years, however, Italians have come to appreciate their delicious rice and have developed a plethora of delicious ways to prepare and serve it - however, the base of the risotto is always the same.
Rice is grown all over Italy, but especially in Lombardy and Piedmont, where the flat Padano plain allows regular flooding of the fields, necessary for the crops to develop. 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 doesn't overcook as easily. There are also wonderful offshoots of brown arborio, black risotto rice (called Riso Venere or Venus rice), red rice, and all sorts of other specialty rices.
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 prepared in a number of ways, and there's always some debate as to whether or not you need to stir it constantly. I'm of the stirrer camp, but I'm not exaggerating. I keep an eye on it as I prepare the other dishes, making sure it reaches the sweet spot 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 skin.
What to do ahead of time:
Make a vegetable broth. Don't insult your risotto by making a fake broth with diced onions! Cut up a bunch of carrots, celery and onions and place them in a large stock pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer with the lid on for 90 minutes. Drain the vegetables and reserve the liquid. You'll need about 2 quarts, or 2.5 liters, but make at least double the 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 squash into chunks (and remove the seeds), spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast the pumpkins at 180 degrees Celsius for about 30-40 minutes until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Let them cool and then mash them with a fork and place the mashed squash in a bowl. It shouldn't be puree, more like mashed pumpkin!!
For four servings for dinner:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups carnaroli or arborio rice
2 roasted, mashed small pumpkins
about 2-2 1/2 liters of homemade vegetable stock
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup of white wine
2 sprigs of rosemary, picked clean and finely chopped
< br>2 good handfuls of arugula (arugula/arugula)
Salt and pepper to taste
For non-vegans: 5 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated Reggiano Parmigiano
In a large skillet (I use a wok) heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onion. Once the onion is translucent, add the rice. Stir with a wooden spoon. Toasting the rice is very important as it allows the starch to get to just below the surface of the rice grains, making it easier for the broth to penetrate.
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. Reduce the wine almost completely.
Add a ladleful of vegetable stock while stirring. Keep the heat on medium. Once the broth has been absorbed, pour in ladlefuls. This process takes about 25 minutes and cannot be shortened. The rice must slowly soak up the broth.
Occasionally biting into a piece of rice.It must 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 done," add the squash and rosemary, and a ladleful of stock. Allow the rice to color a little, then add the butter and cheese if you like. Add another ladleful of broth. You should now have reached the optimum 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 reserved broth to feed the risotto and soften it.
My favorite way to serve risotto is in deep, luscious serving bowls, never on a plate! Risotto is about coziness, and bowls are cosy.
Enhance your risotto with some arugula leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
As you can see from this recipe, making risotto is all about loving and respecting the ingredients, pampering them to create something rich and special. It's time consuming and that's the way it should be. This is just one of many ways to make risotto, but the base is always the same. Good rice, good oil, good broth.
Enjoy delicious risotto with fantastic Barbera wines from Babarolo!.