Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Preparing Risotto

Risotto takes a little longer to prepare than pasta, but it is just as flexible as a base for your own invention. Of course, there is the Classic Milanese Risotto and the southern-inspired Lemon Risotto, but you can also use whatever you have on hand to flavor the rice.

Essentially, you need Arborio rice, broth and some vegetables or herbs. Instead of leaving the rice to cook in a covered pot, you slowly add the hot broth and mix the rice regularly until it is fully cooked (about twenty minutes.) I find the quiet stirring to be an almost meditative experience. So, instead of cursing the fact that you didn’t decide to simply boil pasta, enjoy the moment. For a more exact, basic recipe, see this New York Times article.

The other night I used leftover chicken soup (the chicken itself gone, but the flavor still in the broth) as the liquid for my rice. I didn’t have enough, so I added some water to the pot. When the rice was finished, I added a bit more salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and dried basil to help adjust the flavor. It probably would have been better to have removed the carrots, onions and leeks from the soup and start with new vegetables, but I left them in. (Previously uncooked vegetables would have better maintained their shape and hardness.)

Making risotto requires two pots: One for the broth and one for the rice. In the rice pot, I started with olive oil and artichoke hearts. Next, I quickly sautéed the rice in the artichoke mixture before slowly adding the soup. Once the rice was completely immersed in the liquid, I stirred the mixture until it became drier and needed another ladle or two of liquid. I continued like that until the rice was cooked.

The resulting risotto was a variation on vegetable risotto. I served the risotto with a dash of extra virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper, and freshly grated pecorino romano. For a vegetarian version, use vegetable broth or stock. For a vegan version, hold the cheese. The entire dish is gluten-free. No matter what you do, the result will still be creamy (because of the starch in the rice.) If it is the first time you are making a similar dish, you might want to follow this Artichoke and Parmesan Risotto recipe.

When I took a cooking class at Trattoria Zibibbo in Florence, Italy, with chef and owner Benedetta Vitali, she stressed the importance of sautéing the rice quickly in olive oil before adding the broth. This helps to ensure that the rice will retain its shape and won’t become too gooey (a very formal cooking term) as it is cooked. (For more tips and recipes, see her lovely cookbook Soffritto.)

What’s your favorite risotto dish?


jigadijig said...

I've yet to meet a risotto dish I didn't like! lol! Thanks for the tips, I've got some homemade chicken stock ready to be part of something this good!

Chloe Yelena Miller said...

Wonderful! Let us know how it goes!