Cooking Rice with an Italian Accent! (4 page)

SERVES 6

This recipe comes from Fulvia Sessani, of Venice, Italy. I met Fulvia in Seattle when I was there to do a show with Jeff Smith,
The Frugal Gourmet
. She is a charming lady who gave me permission to use her rice recipe in my next book. This Risi e Bisi is a light and delicate rice dish common to the Veneto, the region whose capital is Venice.

1 ounce butter

3 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon), diced

5 ounces Arborio rice

1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced

6 cups boiling hot chicken stock

2 cups shelled peas, fresh or frozen

1 pinch fennel seeds (
1
⁄
8
teaspoon)

4 tablespoons butter

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a saucepan heat the one ounce of butter, add the pancetta. Add the rice and onion. Cook, stirring for five minutes. Add hot broth, cup by cup, until rice absorbs all the broth. Stir in peas. Add the fennel seeds. Stir. Remove from heat and add four more tablespoons of butter and the cheese. Stir vigorously. Provide more grated Parmesan cheese at table.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

SOAVE, TOCAI

 

Riso e Zucca al Profumo di Noce Moscata

(RICE AND PUMPKIN SOUP PERFUMED WITH NUTMEG)

SERVES 4

Zucca
is the Italian word for pumpkin, but in slang it means “dumb jerk.” If anyone in Italy calls you
zucca
he won't be trying to sell you pumpkin. This dish is a savory, thick soup that can be served as a main course. I sampled this dish at an Italian fast-food restaurant in the Galeria di Milano, the first indoor shopping mall in the world. It is a jewel of architecture decorated with fine mosaics. After this dining experience, I dropped in to say a prayer at Il Duomo di Milano (Milan's gorgeous gothic cathedral) and thanked God for all He has given me. No one called me
zucca
.

3 scallions, washed, trimmed and sliced thinly

1 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 can of unflavored pumpkin puree

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

1 cup long-grain rice

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

A generous pinch of nutmeg (¼ teaspoon)

In a large saucepan, place butter and oil and on low heat, sauté the scallions for eight minutes. Add the pumpkin, hot chicken stock, and rice. Mix well, cover and cook on the lowest heat for ten minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle grated cheese and nutmeg. Stir briskly. Pour into tureen and bring to table. Have salt and pepper and more grated Parmesan cheese on the table for each to season his or her bowl.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

DOLCETTO D'ALBA, BARBERA D'ASTI

Risotti (Risottos)

Risotto is a main course at an Italian dinner (
pranzo
) or supper (
cena
). Basically, a risotto is cooked thus. Onion or garlic is sautéed in butter and/or olive oil. Then the rice is sautéed for three minutes. Other ingredients are added, after which either chicken or beef broth, heated to a boil, is added cup by cup, constantly stirring, until the rice absorbs all the liquid. This takes about eighteen minutes. Arborio rice imported from Italy must be used because it has the ability to absorb much liquid and to become creamy in consistency but still remain al dente (firm to the bite).

 

Risotto Saporito al Gorgonzola

(FLAVORFUL GORGONZOLA CHEESE RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

I will not go into a treatise on the pungent, mouthwatering, and hearty aspects of Gorgonzola cheese. Suffice it to say that the recipe takes full advantage of all the virtues of this precious cheese. Gorgonzola has an adult, full flavor; but I've seen Italian kids spreading it on toasted bread for an afterschool snack.

1 small onion, minced

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1½ cups Arborio rice

2 tablespoons dry white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 quart boiling hot beef stock

5 ounces Gorgonzola cheese

3 tablespoons light cream

2 large tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Sauté onion in one tablespoon of butter and olive oil in a large saucepan on moderate heat for five minutes. Add rice, stir for two minutes. Add wine and cook until it evaporates. Season with salt and pepper. Now add hot beef stock, cup by cup, constantly stirring until all broth is absorbed by the rice (about eighteen minutes). Place Gorgonzola and remaining butter in bowl of food processor fitted with a steel blade and process for one minute. Remove the saucepan from the stove, incorporate the cream, the food-processed cheese and butter, and the grated cheese. Mix well. Let rest two minutes, then serve.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

GATTINARA, NEBBIOLO D'ALBA

 

Risotto alla Cavour

(CAVOUR'S RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

Camillo Cavour was a prime mover in the movement for the unification of Italy as a modern nation. He, along with Mazzini and Garibaldi, finally freed the Italian peninsula from foreign domination and Italy became a nation under its first king, Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy. This flavorful risotto is named in honor of Camillo Cavour.

1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1 large peeled clove garlic, crushed

1 6½-ounce can of tuna packed in olive oil, flaked (use the drained oil to sauté the other ingredients)

2 ribs celery, diced small

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon tomato paste, dissolved in ½ cup dry white wine (I use either Pinot Grigio or dry vermouth)

1½ cups Arborio rice

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon butter

In a large saucepan on gentle heat, sauté parsley, garlic, tuna, and celery in oil from can of tuna for eight minutes. Add vinegar, cook for three minutes. Add tomato paste dissolved in wine and, constantly stirring, cook until wine evaporates. Stir in rice. Add hot stock, cup by cup, constantly, stirring, until rice absorbs all the liquid (about eighteen minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Stir in butter. Cover and let rest for two minutes. Serve immediately. (No grated cheese, please.)

RECOMMENDED WINES:

ARNEIS, RIBOLLA GIALLA

 

Risotto alla Rustica

(PEASANT LADY'S RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

This very simple and tasty risotto probably got its name from the fact that farmworkers in Italy, even to this day, always cultivate their own little gardens from which they harvest their own fresh crops. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could grow your own scallions, garlic, rosemary, marjoram, parsley, basil, and tomatoes? Your cooking would take on a fresher more genuine flavor. However, our truck farms do a very suitable job supplying us with what we need to cook superbly. I like New Jersey–grown veggies, after all, I am a New Jerseyan.

1 large scallion

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 fresh rosemary sprig, leaves only

1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

6 fresh basil leaves

Pinch dried marjoram (
1
⁄
8
teaspoon)

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

4 fresh small tomatoes, peeled and squeezed through your fingers

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons light cream

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Wash the scallion, rosemary, parsley, and basil. Dry with paper towel. Mince the fresh vegetables along with the garlic. Melt one tablespoon of butter in olive oil on gentle heat in a large saucepan. Sauté the aromatic mince and marjoram for five minutes. Add rice and stir for three minutes. Add wine and cook until it evaporates. Add crushed tomatoes. Cook eight minutes. Add hot chicken broth, cup by cup, until rice absorbs all the liquid (about eighteen minutes). Season with salt and pepper. During the last two minutes of cooking rice, add 1 tablespoon butter, cream, and grated cheese. Transfer to warmed serving bowl and bring to table. You may want to provide more grated cheese to pass separately.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

PINOT GRIGIO, GEWÜRZTRAMINER

 

Risotto Giallo con Peperoni

(YELLOW RISOTTO WITH PEPPERS)

SERVES 4

Saffron is a very strong seasoning that has been used in the culinary arts for centuries. Saffron is the dried stigma of the blossoms of
Crocus sativus,
a plant native to Asia Minor and grown widely in Europe. Each of the tiny stigmas must be gathered by hand and it takes thousands to make an ounce. This explains why it is the most costly spice in the world. However, a little pinch will permeate a dish with its lovely, strong scent and give it a beautiful yellow color. I had this wonderful risotto while visiting Stresa, a jewel of a village on the shore of Lake Maggiore at the feet of the towering Alps.

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and julienned

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and julienned

Salt and pepper to taste

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock (reserve 2 tablespoons)

1 small package saffron (Badia brand, 0.008 gram)

10 pitted, ripe black olives, cut into rings

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped

12 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in oil in a large saucepan on gentle heat. Sauté onion and garlic eight minutes. Add julienned green and yellow bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes. Add rice. Stir three minutes. Add wine and adjust heat to low. Add boiling hot broth, cup by cup, stirring constantly, until rice absorbs all the liquid (about eighteen minutes). During last five minutes of cooking, add black olive rings and saffron dissolved in two tablespoons reserved hot broth. Remove from heat. Stir in chopped fresh herbs. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Stir vigorously. Transfer to serving bowl and bring to table.
Squisito!
(Exquisite!)

RECOMMENDED WINES:

BARBARESCO, MEDIUM-BODIED AGLIANICO

 

Risotto con Peperoni e Melanzane

(RED BELL PEPPER AND EGGPLANT RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

The eggplant
1
is much appreciated all over Italy. But in the north it rarely appears at the table, while in the south it is used in many recipes. When I was researching its botanical origins, I was shocked to discover it is a berry. Imagine. An eggplant is a huge berry. It goes well with tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and rice. One evening I was invited to Ristorante Stendahl in the village of Collorno, a suburb of Parma. Parma is in Northern Italy. To my surprise, we were served this outrageous risotto. Then the chef came out to meet us. He was born and raised in Messina, Sicily. All at once I understood; Sicilians love eggplant. Wait until you taste this beauty.

1 large red bell pepper

1 large eggplant, unpeeled

1 large scallion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley

6 leaves fresh basil, chopped

2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Wash the red pepper. Cut in half, discard seeds and pith. Cut into 1-inch ribbons. Wash the eggplant. Cut into small cubes, place in a colander, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of salt and leave in sink for ½ hour to leach out its bitter liquid. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in olive oil in a large saucepan. On moderate heat sauté scallion for five minutes. Add red pepper ribbons and eggplant cubes (after having rinsed them, squeezed them, and dried them with paper towels). Stir and sauté them for eight minutes on high heat. Adjust heat to moderate. Add rice and stir for three minutes. Add wine and cook until it evaporates. Add hot broth, cup by cup, until rice absorbs all of the liquid (about eighteen minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, the chopped parsley and basil, grated cheese, and the cream. Mix well and remove from heat. Cover and let stand for two minutes. Transfer to warmed serving bowl and bring to table.
Fantastico!
(Fantastic!)

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