Cooking Rice with an Italian Accent! (6 page)

(ARTICHOKE AND NUT RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

In Southern Italy, most families have their main meal at about one o'clock in the afternoon. All the shops and offices close from 1
P.M.
to 4
P.M.
Mimy (Domenica) La Bozzetta Giovanella, my surrogate mamma Marietta's oldest daughter, invited me to dinner one afternoon at 2
P.M.
She told me to come early so that she could teach me this risotto. I am grateful that she did, otherwise, I wouldn't have this knockout recipe for you.

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, minced

4 canned artichoke hearts packed in water, julienned

2 tablespoons marsala (dry) wine

1½ cups Arborio rice

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

15 shelled walnuts (should weigh about 9 ounces)

Salt and pepper to taste

3 heaping tablespoons cream cheese

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, minced

In a large saucepan on low heat, melt one tablespoon of butter in olive oil. Sauté minced onion for five minutes. Add artichokes, cook gently another five minutes. Add marsala wine; adjust heat to high and evaporate wine (about three minutes). Lower heat to moderate. Add rice. Stir three minutes. Add hot broth, cup by cup, until each is absorbed by the rice, stir constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed. Chop the nuts coarsely. Season the risotto with salt and pepper and shut off the heat. In a bowl, whip cream cheese, grated cheese, and chopped walnuts. Add the whipped cheese–nut mixture to the risotto. Stir vigorously. Add remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir. Cover and let stand two minutes. Transfer to warmed serving bowl and garnish with minced parsley. Serve immediately.
Squisito!
(Exquisite!)

RECOMMENDED WINES:

SAUVIGNON BLANC, PINOT NOIR/NERO

 

Risotto al Radicchio

(RADICCHIO RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

Radicchio is a slightly bitter red lettuce originally grown on farms and gardens surrounding the city of Treviso in the region of Veneto. Now that it is grown in the United States it has become less expensive and more available. It is terrific in a mixed salad and can be coated with olive oil and grilled. Radicchio makes the risotto very pretty and very scrumptious. Yes, radicchio is still expensive, but a little goes a long way.

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons butter

1 large scallion, white bulb and green tops, sliced thin

2 heads radicchio, washed, dried, and coarsely chopped

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons light cream

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

In a large saucepan, heat oil and 2 tablespoons of butter on gentle heat. Sauté scallion for 5 minutes. Add radicchio and cook for ten minutes. Add rice and stir for three minutes. Add wine and cook until evaporated. Add hot broth, cup by cup, stirring constantly until rice absorbs all the liquid (about eighteen minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Add cream, grated cheese, parsley, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Mix well. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand two minutes. Pour into warm serving bowl and bring to table.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

LUGANA DEL VENETO, GRECO DI TUFO

 

Risotto con Carote e Piselli

(CARROT AND PEAS RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

I was sure that you have noticed by now that many of these recipes combine peas and rice. I really prefer to buy fresh peas and shell them myself, but the season for fresh peas is very short. Frozen peas are available throughout the year and come very close to tasting like fresh. I never use canned peas. They are too soft and lack the taste and texture of either fresh or frozen peas.

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium carrots, diced small

1 large peeled clove garlic, minced

1 ounce prosciutto or boiled ham

2 bay leaves

7 ounces frozen peas, completely thawed

2 canned, peeled Italian plum tomatoes, chopped

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

Salt and pepper to taste

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

1 heaping tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons light cream or half-and-half

Melt butter in oil in large saucepan on gentle heat. Adjust heat to moderate and add carrots, celery, garlic, onion, and prosciutto. Sauté for eight minutes. Add bay leaves and peas. Cook for one minute. Add tomatoes. Cook for five minutes. Add rice and stir three minutes. Add wine and cook until it evaporates (about five minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Add hot stock, cup by cup, constantly stirring with wooden spoon, until rice absorbs almost all the liquid (about eighteen minutes). Remove bay leaves. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Stir. Add the cream. Stir vigorously. Transfer to a deep serving bowl and bring to table. You may provide grated Parmesan for those who desire it.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

SANGIOVESE DI ROMAGNA, DOLCETTO D'ALBA

 

Risotto del Convento

(MONASTERY RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

In Frosinone, a town in the region of Campania, I was invited to visit the Monastery of Casamari. It was built on the summit of a mountain overlooking the town over seven hundred years ago. It belongs to the Cistercian order of monks and is self-sufficient. The white and black habited monks raise all their own food and run a huge distillery that produces unparalleled liqueurs sold to the public. I was the guest of the abbot-general and was given the rooms that the Pope uses when he visits. I was impressed at being welcomed like a brother. I was even more impressed that evening when I tasted this risotto.

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

7 ounces small fresh beets, peeled and julienned

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, pith removed, halved, and julienned

1 leek, white bulb only, quartered, washed well, dried and thinly sliced

1 heart of romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and julienned

Salt and pepper to taste

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

1 tablespoon grated Swiss cheese

2 paper-thin slices Swiss cheese, julienned

Melt butter in oil in a large saucepan on gentle heat. Sauté beets, bell pepper, leek, lettuce, for 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add rice and stir 3 minutes. Add wine, adjust heat to high and cook until wine evaporates. Adjust heat to moderate. Add hot stock, cup by cup, stirring constantly until rice absorbs all the liquid (about eighteen minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in grated and julienned cheese. Stir vigorously. Cover and let rest two minutes. Transfer to serving bowl and bring to table.
Benedetto!
(Blessed!)

RECOMMENDED WINES:

MERLOT, CANNONAOU DI SARDEGNA

 

Risotto con Piselli e Carciofi

(PEAS AND ARTICHOKE RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

For this recipe I use frozen artichoke hearts because they most resemble the fresh. I tasted this risotto at a restaurant named Alla Vedova (“at the widow's”) in Udine, the capital of the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The widow was there, boy was she there! She ran the whole place by herself. She cooked, served, and cleaned up. She was not a “merry widow” until I talked to her in my Calabrian-accented Italian. She broke out in a broad, genuine smile and spoke to me in the Calabrian dialect. She was born and raised in Pellaro di Reggio Calabria only one mile south of my mom and pop's hometown. She sat down and ate with me and shared a bottle of Cirò (the classic wine from Calabria). I made a friend who insisted that no
paisano
could pay the bill. It was on her. Thank you, Filomena Laganà.

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small white onions, thinly sliced

1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced

7 ounces frozen peas, completely thawed

4 frozen artichoke hearts, completely thawed and julienned

1 chicken bouillon cube, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

½ pound mozzarella cheese, cubed

¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves

In a large saucepan, melt butter in oil on gentle heat. Sauté onions and garlic for five minutes. Add peas and artichokes. Stir and cook for five minutes. Sprinkle crumbled bouillon cube on the mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Add rice and stir three minutes. Adjust heat to high. Add wine and cook until it evaporates (three minutes). Adjust heat to low. Add hot broth, cup by cup, constantly stirring until all the broth is absorbed (about eighteen minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in mozzarella cheese and mint. Cover and let rest two minutes. Transfer to serving bowl and bring to table.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

BIANCO DI GIALLA (FRIULI), REISLING ITALICO

 

Risotto con Melanzane e Prezzemolo

(EGGPLANT AND PARSLEY RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

Eggplant is a marvelous, tangy meat substitute for the vegetarian or non-vegetarian. We're not going to get into a religious argument here. Some vegetarians, or vegans (stricter fundamentalists who avoid any animal products such as eggs or dairy), are as fanatical about their beliefs as some Christians, Jews, and Moslems are about theirs. This tasty risotto is for everyone, regardless of belief systems. Please don't get so serious. It will bother your digestion.

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

2 medium eggplants, peeled and diced small

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

Pinch of oregano

2 heaping tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, melt butter in oil on gentle heat. Sauté onion and garlic eight minutes. Add eggplant cubes, stir, and cook for eight more minutes. Add rice and stir three minutes. Add wine, adjust heat to high, and cook until wine evaporates. Adjust heat to low and add hot stock, cup by cup, until rice absorbs all the liquid (about eighteen minutes of constant stirring). Near the end of this cooking time, add parsley, oregano, and grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Stir vigorously and transfer to a deep serving bowl. Bring to table.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

PINOT GRIGIO, CHARDONNAY

 

Risotto con Verdure Miste

(MIXED GREENS RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

This is one of my favorite risotti because I love vegetables. Over the years, after living in rectories (homes for unwed Fathers), this Father got bored with meat and potatoes for supper almost every night. Sometimes the cook would serve potatoes and meat just for a change. I now try to avoid red meats, not because the American Heart Association suggests it, but because I've lost my taste for it.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, chopped

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1 bunch
broccoli di rape
(broccoli rabe), washed thoroughly and chopped

2 zucchini, skin on and diced

½ green bell pepper, seeded, pithed, and diced

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

2 ribs celery, diced

3 tablespoons frozen peas, thawed

1½ cups Arborio rice

Salt and pepper to taste

3 cups boiling hot chicken stock

½ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

In a large saucepan, melt one tablespoon of butter in oil on gentle heat. Sauté onion, scallions, broccoli rabe, zucchini, bell pepper, carrot, celery, and peas for eight minutes. Add rice and season with salt and pepper. Stir for five minutes. Add all the stock. Adjust heat to low. Simmer covered for twenty minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley and basil. Add remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir vigorously. Transfer to serving bowl and bring to table. Yes, your guests can sprinkle grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, but only if you put it on the table.

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