Three favourite risottos

Submitted by admin on 26 Oct 2013

Risotto is one of the most versatile dishes as it can be made with an unlimited selection of fresh vegetables and herbs, funghi and truffles, nuts, meat, seafood and cheeses and you need hardly ever make the same risotto twice. Ready in just 20 minutes with a little stirring, this is fast food but wholly delicious and nutritious.

The risotto rice cultivated in Italy comes from the flat plains around the Po valley in the northern regions of Piedmont, Lombardy and the Veneto, and although you can now eat risotto all over Italy (and the world), northern Italy is where the true origins of this unique dish lie. Needless to say our tours in Piedmont and the Italian Lakes offer many opportunities to indulge in this delicious local speciality.

There are many varieties of rice of course but the very best for making risotto are arborio, carnaroli and vialone nano, as they absorb the moisture well but still keep a "bite" in the centre of the grain so it can be eaten "al dente".  The other key to a great risotto is good quality stock: chicken, vegetable, fish depending on the recipe, and the end result should have a creamy, glossy, luxurious texture. 

All risottos start with the same basic formula - a finely chopped onion softened in a little butter and olive oil until clear.  You can add finely chopped garlic too.  When you add the rice coat it in the melted butter for a minute or so and then add your white wine or dry vermouth and stir until this has been fully absorbed.  Keep the stock on the hob at boiling point so that each time you add a ladleful to the rice it continues to cook and keep stirring so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. When the rice is ready add another knob of butter and finely grated parmesan cheese.

Below are some ideas for recipes based on risottos we have eaten recently on tours, but you can honestly make one with almost any ingredients you have to hand.

Risotto ai funghi porcini

September and October are funghi months in Italy and risotto with porcini mushrooms is a personal favourite.  If you are lucky enough to find fresh funghi porcini this is great news, but you can also make this with dried porcini mushrooms which will need to be soaked in water for around 30 minutes first to soften them up. If you can find funghi porcini stock cubes they give a real boost to the flavour of this dish. If you ever get the chance to eat risotto with a shaving of white truffle its absolutely delicious!!

Risotto ai zucchini

To give this a fuller flavour I cut the zucchini into little cubes and cook them first in a frying pan with some olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and an anchovy fillet which gives it a lovely salty burst, and then add this mixture to the rice about half way through its cooking time.

Risotto con salsiccie 

This delicious recipe we had on our Jewels of Piedmont tour this autumn and it uses good quality pork sausages taken out of their skins and chopped into small cubes and a very light Piemontese red wine known as Pelaverga.  Almost rosé in colour this pale wine has stawberry and floral notes but it goes extremely well with the saltiness of the sausage and gave a lovely colour to this most fantastic dish.  You can find Pelaverga from specialist wine merchants in Australia but you could use a rosé or another light red too.