Cooking Rice with an Italian Accent! (8 page)

RECOMMENDED WINES:

TAURASI, CIRÓ RISERVA

 

Risotto con Piselli e Spinaci

(PEAS AND SPINACH RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

Pisa, in the region of Tuscany, is most famous for its Leaning Tower. When I was there, I noticed that everything leans: the cathedral, the baptistery, and the city hall. (Even the citizens, I noticed, lean … only kidding about the people!) I sampled this delicious Pisan risotto in a small out-of-the-way family restaurant (trattoria) and when I walked out
I
was leaning! It was probably the two glasses of homemade white wine that the owner brought to my table and didn't charge me for.

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 carrot, peeled and minced

1 rib celery, minced

1 medium onion, peeled and minced

1 clove peeled garlic, minced

3 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and minced

3 ounces frozen peas, thawed

Salt and pepper to taste

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons light cream

Sauté minced carrots, celery, onion, spinach, and garlic in butter and oil in a large saucepan on moderate heat for eight minutes. Add peas. Season with salt and pepper. Add rice, stir for three minutes. Add wine, cook until evaporated. Add hot broth, cup by cup, stirring constantly until rice absorbs all the liquid (about eighteen minutes). Stir in cheese and cream. Transfer to serving bowl and bring to table. No extra grated cheese, unless you insist!

RECOMMENDED WINES:

CHARDONNAY, GRECCHETTO

 

Risotto di Bolzano

(BOLZANO RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

If the ingredients for this risotto speak with an Austrian accent, remember it comes from Bolzano. Bolzano is the capital of the region of Trento-Alto Adrige which was part of the Austro–Hungarian Empire for centuries. The local language is German. Even the street signs are bilingual (Italian and German). This risotto should be accompanied by a glass of beer while you are listening to a German oompah band.

½ white peeled onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil (this is still Italy)

6 Vienna sausages in thin slices (I prefer Goya brand)

1½ cups Arborio rice

1 cup of beer (warm)

1 quart boiling hot beef stock

3 ounces grated Swiss cheese (Emmentaler)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, sauté onion gently in 1 tablespoon butter and oil for five minutes. Add Vienna sausages and cook for five minutes. Add rice and stir for five minutes to coat rice with oil. Add the beer. Adjust heat to moderate and cook until beer evaporates. Add boiling hot beef stock, cup by cup, continuously stirring until all stock is absorbed, about eighteen minutes. It will be a little liquidy. Add cheese, remaining butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir vigorously. Pour into serving bowl and serve.
Wunderbar!
(Wonderful!)

RECOMMENDED WINES:

TRAMINER, GEWÜRZTRAMINER

 

Risotto al Barolo

(BAROLO WINE RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

This is very serious cooking with wine. In fact you have to use half a bottle of wine; the other half is the cook's privilege to sip while he or she does all the stirring required. This is a unique risotto both in color and in taste.

½ peeled onion, minced

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ a 750-ml. bottle of Barolo red wine

½ quart boiling hot beef stock

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion in a large saucepan in two tablespoons butter on gentle heat for five minutes. Add rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Adjust heat to moderate and begin to add the wine ¼ cup at a time, continuously stirring, until all the wine is used and has evaporated. Add the hot broth in the same manner until it is all used and the rice has absorbed it. This will take about eighteen minutes. Add one tablespoon butter, grated cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour into serving bowl and bring to table.
Fantastico!
(Fantastic!)

RECOMMENDED WINE:

BAROLO

 

Risotto del Reverendo

(THE REVEREND'S RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

When I stay in Reggio Calabria, I reside in the Casa del Clero (the clergy house). It is the residence of the retired bishop and home to elderly retired priests. But Monsignor Giuseppe Caruso, my dear friend, always allows me to stay there at a minimum cost. One afternoon, Sister Lucia, the nun in charge of the residence, called me on the intercom to come to the kitchen because the retired bishop, the Most Reverend Sorrentino, was cooking the main course. I never watched a bishop cook, so I rushed to the kitchen. There was the bishop dressed in his purple cassock and skull cap, a huge apron wrapped around his ample paunch.

1 tablespoon minced pancetta or bacon

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 rib celery, minced

5 ounces savoy cabbage, sliced into ribbons

1 small onion, minced

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

1 can pinto beans, drained (15 ounces)

3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, sauté pancetta, celery, cabbage, and onion in butter and oil for eight minutes on moderate heat. Stir in rice for three minutes. Add wine and cook until it evaporates. Add hot broth, cup by cup, until rice absorbs all the liquid. After nine minutes of constant stirring, add drained beans. When rice is done after nine more minutes of stirring, add grated cheese and stir vigorously. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, say a short prayer (the bishop did), turn into serving bowl, and serve.
Benedetto risotto!
(A blessed risotto!)

RECOMMENDED WINES:

GRECO DI TUFO, FIANO DI AVELLINO

 

Risotto con Funghi, Prosciutto, e Mozzarella

(MUSHROOM, PROSCIUTTO, AND MOZZARELLA RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

L'Aquila, a jewel of a town in the Abruzzi region, is not on the usual Italy tour track. Here lies the incorrupt remains of Saint Bernardine of Siena, who was a great Franciscan preacher and the founder of the Catholic World-Wide Holy Name Society. I visited a rustic and charming
Abruzzese
restaurant in Montereale (a suburb in the mountains of L'Aquila). The family who ran the restaurant exemplified the gracious sincerity and simplicity of those who dwell in the isolation of mountain villages. This risotto was the rich main course.

10 ounces regular white mushrooms

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 small onion, peeled

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

Pinch of salt

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

3½ ounces prosciutto or boiled ham cut into julienne strips

1 pound mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

2 tablespoons light cream

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Wipe the mushrooms with a paper towel and slice from top to bottom, including the stems. Chop the garlic and onion, then sauté in oil and butter in a large saucepan on gentle heat for five minutes. Add the cultivated mushrooms, sauté on high heat for two minutes. Add dried mushrooms (previously soaked in warm water for half an hour, drained, washed, and chopped). Add pinch of salt and stir. Add rice and stir for three minutes. Add wine and cook until it evaporates. Add hot broth, cup by cup, constantly stirring until rice absorbs all the liquid (about eighteen minutes). During the last three minutes of cooking, add julienned ham and the mozzarella cut into small cubes, the cream, and the grated cheese. Mix well. Transfer to serving bowl, garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately. This is an authentic taste of the Abruzzi mountains.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

CHIANTI RISERVA, PREDICATO DI BITURICA (CABERNET/SANGIOVESE BLEND)

 

Risotto Brindisano

(RISOTTO FROM BRINDISI)

SERVES 4

Brindisi is a major port city in the region of Apulia. Ships leaving the port travel all over the world. I was invited to board a ship that had just returned from India and dine with the captain. The ship's cook brought us this Italian risotto with a touch of Indian flavor.

1 small onion, minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 rib celery, minced

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

4 ripe Italian tomatoes, peeled (or canned)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

1 level teaspoon curry powder dissolved in ½ cup hot broth (beef or chicken)

½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

In a large saucepan, sauté onion, garlic, and celery in butter and oil on moderate heat for eight minutes. Add rice and stir for three minutes. Add hot broth, cup by cup, constantly stirring for eighteen minutes. After nine minutes, add dissolved curry. When finished cooking and rice is al dente, add parsley and stir vigorously. Pour into serving bowl, bring to table and dig in.
Buono abbastanza!
(Good enough!)

RECOMMENDED WINES:

SALICE SALENTINO, PRIMITIVO

 

Risotto ai Peperoni

(RED BELL PEPPER RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

This dish has spectacular eye appeal and tantalizes the tastebuds. I tasted it when I was invited to accompany Sandro La Bozzetta and his wife, Clelia, to supper at the home of their Neapolitan friends living in Reggio Calabria. A friendly argument broke out about the origin of the risotto. Naples, Venice, and Reggio Calabria were the contenders. I voted for Venice and got booed. Make this risotto and you'll get applause.

1 large onion, minced

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium red bell peppers, halved, pith removed, seeded, and julienned

Salt and pepper to taste

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

1 quart boiling hot beef stock

1 tablespoon pitted black olives, chopped

Pinch marjoram or oregano

2 tablespoons light cream

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in butter and olive oil for five minutes. Add the red bell peppers and cook on moderate heat for fifteen minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rice and stir to coat each grain with fat. Add wine and cook until it evaporates. Add the hot stock, cup by cup, stirring continuously until all the broth has been absorbed (about eighteen minutes). Add the olives, marjoram, and cream and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with grated cheese, stir, and cover. Let rest two minutes before serving.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

VALPOLICELLA, CIRÓ CLASSICO

 

Risotto in Campo Verde

(RISOTTO IN A GREEN FIELD)

SERVES 4

This imaginative name comes from the green color of the peas, parsley, and basil. It's a pretty name and a delectable risotto. Green is the color that signifies hope and the beginning of new life in the spring. Well this dish will have you hoping for more and put a spring to your step.

3 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1½ cups Arborio rice

1 quart boiling hot beef stock

1 pound shelled frozen peas, thawed completely

½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

¾ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese.

Sauté the onion in two tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan on low heat. Add rice and stir for three minutes. Add the hot stock, cup by cup, stirring continuously for eighteen minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Add parsley, basil, and grated cheese. Mix well. Cover and let rest for two minutes. Pour into serving bowl and bring to table.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

LUGANA DEL VENETO, SOAVE

 

Risotto ai Tre Formaggi

(THREE-CHEESE RISOTTO)

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