Saturday, November 10, 2018

risotto 101

Risotto is one of the staple foods here in Piedmont and most def one of our comfort foods 🙆 fairly quick and easy to make, it's always a very versatile dish that you can make all year long and that brings everybody together at the table.

Risotto with Barolo red wine by Chef Marco Giachello for the TurinEpi17 cooking class

Traditionally, in Piedmont we tend to take advantage of the Fall to open our risotto season because we simply like to use all the seasonal vegetables we have access to. Moreover, as November marks the beginning of many festive occasions all around the world, we thought of sharing some of our favorite risotto recipes.

We would like to remind everyone that risotto is a cooking style, not a rice variety.

In Italian we even have a verb: risottare and an adjective: risottato to indicate the risotto cooking style, eg.: pasta risottata is a dish where pasta isn't boiled in water as usual, but cooked like a risotto, by slowly adding a bit of water.

Secondly, risotto can be made with any rice grain.
As the Piedmont extensive rice paddies make us the top European rice producer, traditionally, we cook our own locally grown short grain rice varieties. Carnaroli and Arborio are just two of them but you can actually use any variety you want: brown, wild, black or red rice, even the long grain rice varieties grown around Asia.
As the cooking time changes according to the size and type of rice, you should always taste your rice to make sure it is al dente before serving.

Finally, every risotto is made following the same procedure making it a very creative dish, all you need is 15 minutes plus 5 to let it rest before serving 😛

the Piedmont rice paddies in Treiso in the spring

Every risotto simmers in stock, therefore you will always need some vegetable, fish or meat stock, homemade, ready to use store bought or bouillon cubes.
As a general rule of thumb, you may want to use a fish stock for a risotto with seafood or fish; a vegetable stock for vegetable, milder flavor risottos and your vegan and vegetarian guests; a chicken or mushroom stock for most risotto recipes, even though traditionally, Italians use beef stock.

If Italian expats around the world cure their deep homesickness making risotto with whatever they have at hand, and they can still find a great comfort, anyone can do it too!!

Just remember: risotto is creamy NOT runny like a soup!

A note about the onion... 😅
Most recipe books call for a half finely chopped onion because in the past, Italian rice was stored in sacks and it smelled like pee... so to get rid of that sack flavor, chefs and cooks used to sauté it in butter and very finely chopped onions that would totally overwhelm the dish flavor...
Nowadays, this is step is no longer required as the rice we buy is fresh, clean and without any extra scents.
By all means though, if you want to keep the tradition alive, you can always add this step, otherwise, you can totally skip it like we do!

stout risotto

Besides the stock you will also need wine or some form of aromatic booze. Most commonly white wine is the go-to wine, but red and bubbly wines are good too, as well as beers, stouts, ales, vermouth, gin and whiskeys!

According to what you choose to use, you will determine the character of your risotto since the very beginning of its preparation.
Because after sautéing the rice in butter, you will cover it in booze and allow it to evaporate. This is a vital step to seal the booze aroma and rice nutrients within the rice grains.
After this step you will add the stock and continue to cook.
This is the base for all risottos.

basic risotto with fresh peas

Experiment with a risotto base to get the hang of it 😇 and you will fall in love!
Here's our risotto base:

  • two handfuls of rice per person + one for your pot
  • chicken or vegetable stock (1/2 liter - 1 pint for two portions)
  • good quality white wine
  • Parmigiano Reggiano to grate on top before serving
  • butter 
  • optional: a dash heavy whipping cream and balsamic vinegar

Prepare the stock; melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the pot and add the rice. Sauté it till the grains are transparent.
Add half a glass of white wine or just enough to cover the rice and let evaporate.
Add two ladles of stock and simmer.
As the stock gets absorbed by the rice, add a ladle of stock. Repeat this step till the stock is absorbed and the rice has cooked for 15 minutes.

Remove from the stove and let rest for 5 minutes.

Stir in a generous amount of Parmesan cheese and add teaspoon of butter every two portions or some heavy whipping cream for extra creaminess and a dash of balsamic vinegar for a tart and out of the ordinary twist.
Stir well before serving and enjoy.

We NEVER have leftovers but... should you have some... save them for your royal brunch 😱

Yes... you can make risotto patties with your risotto leftovers 💁
As the patties warm up in your greased skillet, the Parmasean cheese melts keeping the patties together 😍
Just imagine how flavorful they get if you sauté them in the bacon fat!!

risotto with artichokes and balsamic vinegar

Risotto is a formidable gluten-free option you can easily modify by using a different wine, or by adding seasonal or frozen vegetables, or another cheese.

Explore the risotto kingdom in Turin with us, e-mail: for an experiential tour and or a cooking class with us!

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