Risotto is not my first go-to dish in the summer. Steamy rich starches sound better on a frigid February night than a heat index July evening. However, arriving home after a late night working changes my motivation from “what do I want based on seasonally-appropriate ingredients?” to “what can I pull off based on what is currently in my larder?”
Such was the guiding principal when I pulled carnaroli rice from my pantry and started to riff. I set off on an ‘umami kitchen sink’ pursuit, yanking out pancetta, anchovies, and parmesan. I grabbed olive oil, walnuts, onion, garlic and vegetable stock base. I did some midnight gardening and cut a good sprig of basil from the backyard.
Starting with the risotto, I poached pancetta in the oil, added onions for a bit, added garlic for a moment, rice in to toast for a couple moments and de-glazed with vermouth.
I followed the standard slow-add of vegetable stock, mixing, mixing, mixing to draw rice starch out and develop the characteristic creamy sauce. I think we cooks often lose sight that this non-cream creaminess is inherently the virtue that lofts risotto into the ranks of Great International Dishes. We cannot resist the temptation to gild the lily, often with immense quantities of fat. I love butter. Butter je t’aime. But I’ve had many risottos where the butter surpassed the rice and disturbed the inherent greatness of the dish. I forwent (a past tense I had to research) the butter and finished with a humble but tasteful lump of grated parmesan.
With a few accompaniments I veered away from the simple elegance that defines risotto and diversified my nutrient intake. Lean steamed kale broke up the richness, a poached egg added some additional protein and ‘yolk sauce’, and an anchovy-spiked pesto led to some bites with surprise palette variation. All in all - not a bad meal for one in the morning.
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 oz pancetta, sliced thin
1/4 cup yellow onion, small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup short grained rice (such as carnaroli or arborio)
1/2 cup dry vermouth
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/3 cup parmigiana Reggiano, finely grated
Salt as needed
1. Heat stock in a pot until steaming.
2. Heat a small pot (1-2 quart) with oil and pancetta on a medium burner.
3. When the meat has released some fat, add the onions, taking care not to brown them but rather soften to translucency.
4. Add garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant.
5. Add rice, toasting for a couple of minutes.
6. Deglaze with vermouth, reducing the liquid until just about dry.
7. Ladle stock into rice half a cup at a time, stirring regularly. Allow to dissipate before adding next installment. Continue until grains of rice are tender. Turn off heat. Risotto should be runny enough to slowly return to a flat surface on its own.
8. Stir in cheese. Check and adjust seasoning.
1/2 cup minced basil
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup parmigiana Reggiano , finely grated
2 anchovy fillets, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Mix all ingredients together.
To finish the dish, put half of the risotto in a bowl. Garnish with a poached egg, steamed kale and the pesto.
Want to learn how to make more delicious Italian food, but on your grill? Our Italian Surf and Turf on the Patio class on Friday, August 12 at 6pm at Lincoln Square features this amazing menu:
- Grilled Baby Octopus with Charred Lemons and Radicchio
- Bistecca (Grilled Ribeye Steaks) with Lemon, Roasted Garlic and Oregano Butter
- Panzanella with Artichokes, Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Grilled Green Beans
- Grilled Oranges with Whipped Mascarpone and Honey-Mint Syrup
To learn more about cooking different types of rice, don't miss our virtual Building Blocks series which has an entire lesson dedicated to vegetable and rice cookery. Take all nine virtual classes to really build a solid foundation of cooking!