Il riso nasce nell’acqua e muore nel vino.
(Rice is born in water and must die in wine.)
Italians have been growing rice for a very long time, and have developed many ways of preparing it. The best known is certainly risotto, which is a delicious and delicate alternative to pasta. It’s also much easier to prepare than people think, and is extraordinarily versatile. Making a good risotto is much like riding a bicycle: it takes a little bit of practice to begin with, and a certain amount of concentration after that. Risotto is mainly very sensitive to timing, and this is why what is served in a restaurant (no matter how good it may be) will rarely display that rich creamy texture and just-right doneness that a good homemade risotto will.
I love this delicate, sophisticated and yet simple risotto recipe. I like to dust this creamy delight with white truffle shavings, whenever season (and wallet) allows.
"Mantecato" means buttery, and this risotto certainly will be; it’s a celebration-day dish and will be just the thing for a very special occasion. Yields 4 plentiful servings.
- 500 gr (2 1/2 cups or 6 large fistfuls*) Carnaroli or Arborio rice
- 100 gr (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 2 small scallions, very finely minced
- 1 glass dry white wine
- 100 gr (1/2 cup) fontina cheese, finely sliced or diced
- 200 gr (2 cups) freshly grated Parmigiano
- 1 liter (1 quart) simmering beef broth
- 50 gr (1/4 cup) fresh white truffles (optional, brushed clean)
Sauté the scallion in half the butter until it begins to turn golden, then add the wine and cook over a low heat, until translucent and the wine has fully evaporated.
Add the rice, mix well, and then begin adding broth, a ladle at a time as it absorbs while cooking the grains, stirring gently all the while.
When the rice has almost completely reached the al dente stage, reduce the heat and stir in the remaining butter and the cheeses, cooking a minute or two more.
Shave half the truffles into the risotto using a truffle slicer and dot the surface with a few flecks of butter. Let the risotto rest covered for a minute, then stir briefly, transfer it to a fine bone china serving bowl, and shave the remaining truffles over it with a dramatic gesture to impress guests.
Image © Micol
*Empirical Formula | When cooking risotto, my grandmother would never weigh or measure the amount of rice needed with a scale or a cup. Her measurement was her fist capacity. One large, overflowing fistful per person plus one extra, was her rule. This purely experiential method worked for her then as it does for me today, and you may want to apply it yourself. In my risotto recipes I will however always include the standard cup equivalent as well. The usual average amount to cook per person is between 50 gr and 100 gr (1/4 to 1/2 cup), depending on how rich the other ingredients are, and guest appetite. But I sincerely trust Nonna’s fail-safe system more.