Ever since my trip to the Po Valley with Riso Gallo to understand more about how rice and other grains are produced in Italy, I have been obsessed with perfecting my risotto-making technique. During our visit, we ate in some truly memorable restaurants, sampling different grains and flavours of risotto, a particular highlight being a very simple aged-risotto grain, cooked with olive oil, butter and Parmesan cheese and adored with spring truffles.
Since then, making a risotto has become a weekly activity – in part prompted by the fact that all three of our children unanimously love risotto and so it’s one of the few meals that doesn’t have to be messed around with too much or customised three different ways.
Which rice grain to use?
There are lots of different risotto grains to try:
- Carnaroli is known as the king of risotto rice.
- Arborio is favoured by home cooks.
- Gran Riserva variety, aged for a year and produced in limited quantities, is the one favoured by chefs.
- The Originario variety, which is a smaller, round grain can be used in soups and in arancini
- The Roma variety responds well to being oven-baked.
Of all the risotto recipe I have tried at home, this one, found in Gennaro Contaldo’s Fast Cook Italian is our winner – it is a Risotto Caprese – based on the flavours of the classic Caprese Salad of Tomato, Mozarella and Basil. Contrary to the popular belief that making a risotto is time-consuming and labour intensive, you can have dinner on the table in around 25 minutes with this recipe. I’ve also scaled it up recently and made it for a much larger crowd, too. I love the fact that Gennaro’s recipes are always easy to throw together and very family friendly.
"The ingredients for this risotto are taken from the classic Caprese salad – tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Simple to make and extremely tasty, it’s often my go-to midweek meal for the family" Gennaro Contaldo
- 2 tsp butter
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 2 handfuls basil leaves
- 260 g cherry tomatoes quartered
- 320 g risotto Arborio rice
- 100 ml white wine
- 1.5 litres hot vegetable stock bouillon
- 200 g mozzarella cut into small cubes
- 30 g grated Parmesan
Heat 1 generous tablespoon of butter and the olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan set over a medium heat. Add the onion and a couple of the basil leaves and sweat for 2 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and continue to sweat for 1 minute. Stir in the rice, making sure each grain is coated in oil. Add the wine and cook until the rice has absorbed it.
Then add a couple of ladles of hot stock, stirring with a wooden spoon until the rice has absorbed it all. Add a couple more ladles of stock and continue to cook in this way, stirring and adding more stock, for 17–20 minutes, until the risotto is cooked al dente.
Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter and mozzarella, stirring well until it has nicely melted into the risotto.
Stir in the grated Parmesan and remaining basil leaves and serve immediately.
Featured with permission given by Pavilion Books. Photography Kim Lightbody.
Gennaro’s Fast Cook Italian
From Fridge to fork in 40 minutes or less