Recipe 56: Restrained risotto

February 26, 2011 at 11:17 am | Posted in savoury | 2 Comments

I love Italian food… I adore pasta, risotto and (obviously) tiramisu. But while these dishes are full  full of lovely flavours and vegetables, the cream/cheese content can reach  rather disturbing levels for everyday eating. So I decided to develop a risotto that was full of flavour but didn’t require a ton of parmesan/mascarpone or other such addition at the end – which has become my restrained risotto: more of a template than a recipe – but I thought I would share it anyway. The idea is that you use robust flavoursome ingredients that mean that the absence of parmesan at the end doesn’t feel like you are missing out… and my favourite combination is leek, pea and pancetta (although feel free to substitute – often leftover chicken from Sunday lunch is used, or I’ve done a red version with red onion, peppers and sausage). I find it makes a perfect mid-week supper with friends – so recently I’ve cooked it for Sarah, and Audrey & Martin. It has the added advantage of being pretty quick to make (and yes I am one of those people who finds stirring risotto relaxing – it was one of the motives for seeking out a flat with a kitchen-diner so that I could chat to my dinner guests while stirring making the risotto experience more sociable).

Making it: If using pancetta (coming in handy ready to go packs from most supermarkets) first saute that in the pan – you don’t need to add oil as the pancetta has plenty! This then lubricates the pan to saute off the leeks (which I reckon take at least 5 minutes to soften on a lowish heat – don’t get the pan too hot or they will burn – and that taste less good). Once that is all soft, turn the heat up to medium, add the risotto rice and stir to get it coated in the oil, then add a glass of white wine/vermouth for some flavour, and stir the process of idle stirring. Once the liquid is absorbed, add another cupful and keep adding cupfuls of stock until the rice has cooked (20- 25 minutes – and for 2 people eating around 125g of rice – I reckon on about 1 litre of stock – which is usually made with vegetable bouillon powder). When it is  cooked, add the peas then some herbs (fresh sage is the best with pancetta and leeks), seasoning and a little drizzle of olive oil and then take it off the heat and put a lid (or plate) on the pan for 2 minutes to let the flavours mingle before dishing out

Eating it: I love this – so I am not an unbiased reviewer – but others seem to enjoy it too (or at least it generally gets eaten up!)

Next time: in the summer it would be fun to add asparagus…



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  1. just to check, do you mean add a cupful of stock (then keep on going)after the wine, or more cupfuls of wine?! Sounds awesome either way!!

    • Its stock all the way… I shall edit to make clearer!

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