Cooking Rice with an Italian Accent! (9 page)

SERVES 4

A recent
New York Times
article reported that scientists made a study in France where huge amounts of cheese are consumed, and to their surprise they found that the French suffer less coronary disease than most Europeans, except Southern Italians. It seems that the bacteria and enzymes in cheese render the cholesterol in fresh whole milk harmless. They also said that the daily consumption of red wine may be an additional important factor in preventing heart disease. I think that's great news for cheese and red-wine lovers. It made me very happy. I was even happier when I had it for dinner.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

1 heaping tablespoon mascarpone or cream cheese

2 heaping tablespoons Gorgonzola or other blue cheese

1 heaping tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, melt butter in oil on gentle heat. Sauté onion and garlic for five minutes. Add rice and stir three minutes. Add wine, adjust heat to moderate, and cook until it evaporates. 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. Add the three cheeses. Mix vigorously. Transfer to serving bowl and bring to table. Eat to your heart's content.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

AMARONE, BAROLO

 

Risotto al Cumino

(FRESH CUMIN RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

Cumin is a small, grassy plant that produces seeds that are used in making the liqueur kümmel and much used in Latin-American cooking. This risotto absolutely requires fresh cumin, which grows abundantly in spring on the plateau of Asiago. If you can't get fresh cumin, just skip this recipe. There are no satisfactory substitutes.

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped fresh cumin

1 cup dry white wine

1½ cups Arborio rice

1 quart boiling hot beef stock

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese

Sauté onion in 1½ tablespoons of butter and the oil in a large saucepan on gentle heat for five minutes. Add chopped cumin, stir, and sauté three minutes. Add wine and cook for five minutes. Add rice, stir to coat the grains with fat. Over moderate heat, add hot broth, cup by cup, stirring constantly, until all the broth is totally absorbed by the rice. (This should take eighteen minutes from the first cup of stock to the last.) Add pinch of salt. Add the remaining 1½ tablespoons of butter and grated cheese. Give a last stir and bring immediately to the table.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

BARBARESCO, GATTINARA

 

Risotto con Funghi alla Mia Maniera

(MUSHROOM RISOTTO MY WAY)

SERVES 4

Frank Sinatra made the song “My Way” one of the most successful popular songs in modern musical history. Although it was written by Paul Anka, “My Way” was and is always associated with “Old Blue Eyes.” Whoever invented this recipe, did it “their way.” I am sure you will claim it for yourself.

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms reconstituted in a cup of warm water for ½ hour. Drain, pour the soaking liquid through a fine wire mesh sieve lined with two layers of paper towels, and reserve the liquid.

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 small onion, minced

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

1 quart boiling hot beef stock

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Wash the mushrooms under cold running water. Chop mushrooms and sauté in one tablespoon of butter and olive oil in small skillet on moderate heat for five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add parsley and garlic. Cook five more minutes. Set aside. In a large saucepan, sauté onion in one tablespoon of butter on gentle heat for five minutes. Add rice and stir for three minutes. Add wine and cook until it evaporates. Add reserved mushroom liquid and cook until it evaporates. Begin adding hot beef stock, cup by cup, until all the broth is absorbed by the rice (about eighteen minutes), constantly stirring. During the last five minutes, add the contents of the skillet which was used to sauté mushrooms. Add remaining tablespoon of butter and grated Parmesan cheese. Stir, then allow to rest two minutes covered. Pour into a preheated serving bowl and bring to table.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

BARBERA D'ASTI, DOLCETTO D'ALBA

 

Risotto al Forno di Clelia

(CLELIA'S BAKED RISOTTO)

SERVES 6

I traveled to Italy in January 1993 to visit my relatives in Reggio Calabria. On Monday, January 18, I was invited to dinner at my
compare
Sandro's house. I watched as his wife, Clelia, prepared this stupendous baked risotto. When I tasted it, I thought,
It doesn't get any better than this. I am surrounded by people who love me and I am eating the best food in the world. Thank you, God. I am truly blessed.
Now I share this blessing with you; share it in turn with people you love.

1 large peeled onion, sliced thinly

3 tablespoons olive oil

1½ cups Arborio rice

1 cup dry white wine

1 quart boiling hot stock (chicken or beef)

½ cup milk

1 small package saffron (Badia brand, 0.0008 gram)

4 tablespoons butter

3 slices boiled ham, julienned

5 slices domestic provolone cheese or Swiss, julienned

½ pound mozzarella cheese, diced

4 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large saucepan, sauté onion in olive oil on moderate heat for five minutes. Add rice and stir for three minutes. Add wine and cook until it evaporates. Add boiling stock, cup by cup, until rice absorbs all the stock, stirring constantly. This takes about eighteen minutes of constant stirring. Add half the milk with the last cup of broth. Remove from heat, add saffron and mix well. Set aside. Butter a baking dish with one tablespoon of butter. Make a layer of rice on bottom of dish, dot with remaining butter, place the ham and the provolone or Swiss cheese on rice, distributed evenly. Cover with diced mozzarella cheese, pour remaining milk over the surface. Cover with the rest of the rice. Sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Bake for forty minutes. Remove and let rest for ten minutes, cut, and serve.
Magnifico!
(Magnificent!)

RECOMMENDED WINES:

MONTEPULCIANO, CHIANTI CLASSICO

 

Risotto della Tata

(THE NANNY'S RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

The upper middle class in Italy often hire a nanny (whose job it is to cook, clean, and help raise the children). Marietta La Bozzetta's oldest daughter, Mimy, has had the same nanny for almost thirty years. Her name is Rosa and she is a delightful lady, especially after she has consumed a couple of glasses of wine. She prepared this risotto for me and cheerfully gave me the recipe. It is a luscious dish, and if you can't afford a nanny, make it anyway, and just pretend your nanny cooked it for you.

Note: This is another of those recipes you will (sadly) have to skip if you can't get an important ingredient. If the fresh herbs are not available, skip it. Dry herbs just won't work.

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium peeled white onion, thinly sliced

1 large peeled clove garlic, thinly sliced

1½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

½ cup fresh rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped

½ cup fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

1 quart boiling hot chicken stock

½ pound mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons light cream

Salt and pepper to taste

2 heaping tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in oil in a large saucepan on gentle heat. Sauté onion and garlic for eight minutes. Add rice and stir three minutes. Add wine, adjust heat to high, and cook until wine evaporates. Adjust heat to low. Stir in chopped herbs. Add boiling hot broth, cup by cup, constantly stirring, until rice absorbs all the liquid (about eighteen minutes). Stir in mozzarella cheese, the cream, salt and pepper to taste, and grated cheese. Stir vigorously and transfer to deep serving bowl. Bring to table and smile like Rosa.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

RIESLING, GAVI DI GAVI

 

Risotto del Montanaro

(MOUNTAIN MAN'S RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

This aptly named risotto is redolent of the wild mushrooms found in mountain forests. The men of the mountains of Italy engage in sheep and goat herding and so need food that is calorie-laden to fuel their climbing up steep mountains when leading their flocks to verdant pastures. This is a very hearty risotto that flavorfully supplies the calories required for hard physical labor.

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms soaked in 1 cup warm water for ½ hour

1 medium peeled onion, minced

1 large peeled clove garlic minced

1 ounce pancetta or bacon, minced

4 fresh sage leaves, minced

1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

3 tablespoons butter

1 clove (the whole clove spice, not powdered)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

2½ ounces of Italian sweet sausage, skinned and crumbled

10 ounces Arborio rice

½ cup dry red wine

1 quart boiling hot beef stock

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Drain the mushrooms through a fine wire sieve lined with a sheet of paper towel. Reserve the liquid for use in soups, stocks, or other risotto. After washing them under cold running water and drying them, chop mushrooms. Set aside.

In a large saucepan on gentle heat, sauté onion, garlic, pancetta, sage, and parsley in two tablespoons of butter for eight minutes. Add clove and cook another two minutes, stirring. Add diced potatoes and stir. Add mushrooms and crumbled sausage, stir and cook for fifteen minutes. Add rice, stir, and cook for three minutes. Add wine and cook until it evaporates. Add hot stock, cup by cup, stirring constantly for eighteen minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Add remaining tablespoon of butter, the grated cheese, and mix well. Remove from heat. Remove clove. Let stand covered for four minutes. Pour into a warmed serving bowl and bring to table. Put on a cassette tape of Julie Andrews singing “Climb Every Mountain” and enjoy this outstanding meal.

RECOMMENDED WINES:

BAROLO, NEBBIOLO D'ALBA

 

Risotto Filante

(STRINGY RISOTTO)

SERVES 4

Filante translates into “stringiness” and the stringiness comes from the melted mozzarella in the risotto. Mozzarella has that marvelous quality of becoming stringy when melted. Kids young (or old) have fun stretching the strings until they break. This is a sensational risotto for everyone gathered at the family table.

2 small eggplants, washed, unpeeled, and julienned

5 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2-pound 3-ounce can of Italian peeled plum tomatoes, chopped in their liquid

½ peeled chopped onion

1 large peeled clove garlic, thinly sliced

1 rib celery, chopped

¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

Pinch of sugar

11 ounces long-grain rice

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