Back to Venetian basics: Risotto de Radicio – Perfect Risotto
A guide to making the best risotto in Venice: Cook in Venice’s easy steps
Here we are with another weekly recipe from our “Back to Venetian basics” as promised – the perfect risotto.
This week we will talk about risotto, how to prepare an authentic perfect Venetian risotto and we will include also a recipe of Risotto de Radicio.
And remember: book your cooking class in Venice and learn how to prepare any of these recipes!
Let’s start with a bit of history:
Rice arrived in Venice from the East and it soon became one of the main staples of the city, both on the tables of poor people than those of the rich merchants. And still today, for the Venetians, rice is a special product. That is why the regional way of cooking risotto is unique and is called “all’onda”. The risotto rice is cooked in very little liquid, so that the grain absorbs the tastes from the other ingredients, while remaining “al dente”. At the same time the rice must remain soft, like a wave, after being “mantecato”, that is buttered and sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese to make it nice and glossy.
So what are the basic easy steps to make a perfect risotto, just like Venetian people know how to prepare?
Well, here below is our little guide – master our instructions and you won’t have a gooey sticky ball of rice ever, but a masterpiece of a risotto which would make any chef proud!
Basic steps for a perfect risotto:
Soffritto – frying the basic ingredients
How many times did you try to cook a risotto and you ended up with just some kind of a sticky ball or a liquid kind of soup? This could have been due to the use of the incorrect type of rice.
To prepare a perfect risotto you must choose only the ideal risotto rice. There are three types which are used most commonly in Italy: Arborio, Carnaroli and Vialone Nano. These are specific types of rice which are grown with the correct amount of starch which needs to be released during cooking to obtain a delicious creamy risotto, whilst maintaining its shape and its “al dente” texture.
Personally, at Cook In Venice, we prefer to use Vialone Nano all the time, because it is the most common rice grown locally in the Verona area. But if you cannot find this variety where you live, look out for Arborio or Carnaroli, which are exported all over the world.
SOFFRITTO – frying the basic ingredients
The art of soffritto comes more with practice than with theory.
First of all you must decide if you want to use onions, garlic or shallots. The choice is based upon which other ingredients you are going to use in your risotto, since the onion has a sweeter more delicate flavor, garlic has a strong sharp flavor and the shallot is in between the two. The choice is up to you, but just to give you some examples, we would use onions with a pumpkin risotto, garlic with a mushroom risotto, and shallots with a lemon risotto.
You start by chopping one of the above – remember that the finer you chop, the more intense the aroma will be at the beginning, whilst if you chop coarsely, the aroma won’t be so strong, but the flavor will persist in the risotto.
With regards to the use of butter or oil to fry your soffritto, the choice, again, is yours and your dietary requirements. The important thing is that whichever fat you are going to be using, it must form an uniformed base at the bottom of the pan. Make sure to drop your chopped chosen vegetable when the fat is very hot and to lower the heat as soon as the soffritto start sizzling. The chopped ingredient must become golden very slowly, that way the sharpness will slowly evaporate away.
Drop you rice into the now golden soffritto. Stir with energy, so that every single grain is coated in the fat and the rice does not stick in the pan. Keep stirring so that every grain toasts in the same way. As soon as the rice grains are nearly transparent – it should take about 1 minute – proceed with the following step: Vino – the wine.
VINO – the wine
Add your wine, as indicated in your chosen recipe: usually dry white wine, but sometimes you can even choose a nice bodied red. Remember that the red wine will color your risotto!
Keep stirring and let the wine evaporate.
Now is the time to add the ingredients.
The basic rule for the use of ingredients in a risotto is quite simple: risotto rice take about 18-20 minute to cook. You want to achieve a point where the risotto and the ingredients are cooked with the same consistency: you do not want to end up with cooked rice but uncooked ingredient or vice-versa.
So, if your chosen an ingredient which takes more than 20 minutes to cook, make sure to cook it before hand and add it to the rice about 10 minutes into cooking (for example squash, potatoes, carrots etc.). If the ingredients takes around 20 minutes to cook, add it soon after the wine has evaporated (sausages, radicchio, spinach, etc). If the ingredient takes less than 20 minutes, add it during cooking (fish, prawns, etc.)
Simple as that!
Now you start to add your broth. Before passing to the technique, let’s spend two words about the choice of the broth.
The choice between vegetable broth or meat broth is up to your preferences, the type of ingredients you are going to use in your risotto and your dietary requirements.
But always make sure to make a fresh broth. A very fast broth can be obtained by boiling in approx. a liter of water 1 peeled whole onion, 1 tomato, 2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery. If you use a pressure cooked it is ready in 20 minutes, by boiling it normally it should take about 40-50 minutes.
If you are going to make a meat broth, the chicken one is the simplest to prepare.
Make sure that your broth is hot or at least at room temperature when you are going to use it in the risotto. If you use a cold (from the fridge) broth, it will stop the cooking times of the risotto every-time you add it to the pan.
Now for the technique: you start adding a ladle of broth to your risotto and keep stirring until all of the liquid is completely absorbed. You will feel that it is getting a bit harder to stir. That is when you add another ladle. Make sure not to add too much liquid, less is better, just learn to feel the consistency of the rice. There isn’t a definite amount of broth which must be added to the risotto. It all depends on the type of rice you are using, the ingredients you are using and the pan you have chosen. It will be different every time, but as long as you understand that you have to wait for the liquid to be fully absorbed, you will be OK.
About 3 minutes away from the end of cooking time stop adding broth, turn the heat off and proceed with the Mantecatura.
This is the most important step, what makes a normal risotto into an exceptional risotto!
It is not just about adding some butter, it is about creating a glossy, creamy, smooth recipe!
So, after you turn off the heating, add a knob of butter (a spoon of olive oil if you do not use butter) to the risotto and the grated Parmesan cheese (as indicated in the recipe you are using), but usually around 60g. for a risotto of 300 gr of rice. Stir with energy.
Now a little personal trick from Cook in Venice which we always teach during our cooking classes in Venice: add a small ladle of broth and stir. Cover your pan with a clean dry cloth and place the lid on top. This will allow the rice to carry on cooking and the steam drops to be caught by the cloth, allowing the rice to dry and become creamy.
Leave the risotto for about 5 minute and then serve immediately.
I note from Monica and Arianna: we know that many people like to make a quick version of risotto by adding all in a pan and just let it cook slowly, but it is not the same. Preparing a risotto is relaxing, it allows you to stop for 20 minutes by the cooker and think while you stir, to gather your energy and stand still. And it is also a little act of tender and care towards those you love – don’t rush it – enjoy preparing it and the results will be loved by everyone!
Here is a very wintery but delicious recipes from Venice – you can substitute the Radicchio with Spinach or any other green leaf vegetable.
Risotto de Radicio – Radicchio Risotto
INGREDIENTS FOR 4 PEOPLE:
300 gr. Radicchio
1 small onion
1 glass dry white wine
350 gr Vialone Nano rice
1 liter broth
First of all chop the radicchio into very small bits.
Chop the onion finely and fry in some olive oil until soft as indicated in the soffritto step above. Add the rice to the onion, toast for a minute as indicated in the tostatura step, then add a glass of wine. Let the wine evaporate then add the radicchio and one ladle of broth. Let the broth evaporate and keep adding the broth one ladle at a time awaiting for each ladle to evaporate.
Cook until the rice is tender. Turn the heat off, add a knob of butter and follow the Mantecatura step as indicated above.
Serve hot with Parmesan cheese.
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