Several years back, I posted a recipe for “Farroto.” Where has the time gone? Back in 2014, I was very smitten with the ancient grain of farro, and substituted it in rice dishes whenever I could. I loved the crunch of it and the nutty flavor. However, recently I’ve had the desire to return to the pure, light texture of Arborio rice. This is what the Italian cooking god intended, and perhaps she was correct.
Risotto is a northern Italian rice dish, cooked in a broth to a creamy consistency. You can keep it as simple as just adding saffron, butter and grated parmesan cheese, or you can add any vegetable of choice or seafood or even meat. It is as versatile as pasta. Anything goes well with it.
When my sister gave me this cookbook on risotto, by Judith Barett and Norma Wasserman many decades ago, it opened up a whole new world of Italian cooking to us. Arborio rice was difficult to find in New Jersey supermarkets in the 1980s and 90s, but you could always count on New York City to find most imported products. You can find it anywhere now.
While rice was often a side dish in our family growing up, my mom would sometimes make it as a “make-shift” risotto, adding peas, sautéed in olive oil with bacon and onions, to Uncle Ben’s rice. As my memory serves me, it was indeed delicious, but of course, as these simple dishes hit the mainstream, the recipes became more complicated and professional.
All of a sudden, “risotto” dishes were on the menu in every high-end Manhattan Italian restaurant, the most famous dish being “Risotto all Milanese,” a descendent of Spanish Paella. The saffron came to Italy from Spain as early as 1535. Once we had this cookbook in our hands, we went on a “risotto kick” in our kitchens, making risotto every way possible. It’s so simple (and somewhat time consuming) once you embrace the four simple steps necessary in every risotto: 1. Condimenti; 2. Brodo; 3. Soffitto; 4. Riso. I’ll explain once we get to the recipe.
All this being said, please give my recipe for “farroto” a try. Just go to the blog archives. It is absolutely delicious, even if not in the pure form intended.
Condimenti: 3/4 ounce package dried porcini
1 TBSP unsalted butter
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 to 2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
Brodo: 4 to 5 cups broth of choice…vegetable, chicken, beef….even veal
1 cup porcini liquid, strained
1/2 cup dry white wine
Soffritto: 2 TBSP unsalted butter
1 to 2 TBSP olive oil
1/3 cup finely minced onion
Riso: 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- Condimenti: (this is the vegetable of choice). Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl with 1 cup boiling water. Allow them to stand for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and put into a saucepan. Coarsely chop the mushrooms and set aside. * You wouldn’t soak any other vegetable, only dried mushroom.
- Brodo: Put the broth in the pan with the porcini liquid and bring to a steady simmer own top of the stove. I used beef broth here, but any broth will be fine.
- Soffritto: Heat the butter and oil in a heavy 4 quart pot, and add the onion. Cook until onion begins to soften, being careful not to brown.
- Riso: Add the rice and stir, coating all the grains. Add the wine and cook (stirring) until most of the liquid has cooked off. Addd the chopped porcini and begin adding the broth mixture, a ladle at a time, stirring in the liquid each time, before adding the next ladleful. After 15 to 20 minutes, the rice should be al dente, but the right consistency to eat. All the broth should be used. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, parsley and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
- To serve, spoon into bowls, shave some Parmesan on top and grated parmesan on the side for those who want it.