Yesterday was my Daddy’s birthday. In honor of the day, I thought I would post a few recipes from the region where my dad was born: Veneto. Other than pasta, risotto is one of the most famous of Italian foods.
Risotto is a specific way of cooking rice. To make a true risotto, the rice must first be cooked in olive oil or butter.
The rice must be stirred so that it is evenly coated with the oil or butter, and cooked until it starts to become translucent. Another hallmark of a great risotto – the creaminess comes from the cooking process, not by adding heavy cream to the recipe (as I was just served in a restaurant last week). The famous texture of the risotto is achieved by adding the broth slowly (and I mean slowly, one spoonful at a time is traditional). The joke around my kitchen is that there’s a lot of love in risotto.
Authentic Wild Mushroom Risotto
Although a variety of wild mushrooms are often featured in traditional Venetian fare, I use what I can find easily at the grocery store: porcini, shitake and cremini, but any type of mushroom will do. I don’t remember if my mum ever made risotto when I was growing up. I’m sure she must have but I really don’t remember.
1 pound portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 pound wild mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 whole shallots, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In a saucepan, warm broth over low heat.
Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. A large electric skillet also works well for this recipe. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.
Add remaining tablespoon olive oil or butter to skillet, and stir in the shallots. Saute until translucent. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is nearly absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. You may not use all of the stock called for in the recipe. The amount of liquid requires varies based on your cooking temperature and the age of your rice (older rice tends to require more liquid). The rice will take about 25 minutes to reach the desired texture but again, cooking temperature and age of rice will be a factor. The only way to truly judge if the rice is ready is to taste it. It should be firm but tender to the tooth (al dente).
Once the rice is al dente, remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Pair with red wine (Amarone is my favorite Venetian wine) and serve.
This recipe yields 6 servings (1 cup servings)
Venetian Fusili with Peas, Bacon & Ricotta
The Veneto region is known for its heavier fare and beans are a common ingredient. One of my favorite dishes growing up was pasta e fagioli, made with beans (fagioli) that we grew in our backyard garden. Or maybe I just thought we grew them in our garden because my mum and I would sit on the back porch and shell a bushell of beans. One of my least favorite dishes was pasta with peas and yet as the head of my own kitchen, ironically, it’s the one dish I make quite often. My mum would use ham instead of bacon and I don’t think she would add ricotta but here is my version of a recipe from my childhood.
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups fusilli pasta (I use rice fusilli for a gluten-free variation)
6 strips of bacon
3/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese, crumbled
Cook peas in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 1 minute or until bright green. Drain and set aside.
Cook pasta, following packet directions, until just tender. Drain. Return pasta to saucepan.
Meanwhile, cook bacon in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until crisp.
Add bacon, peas, ricotta, and salt and pepper to pasta. Toss over low heat until well combined. Spoon into serving bowls. Serve.
Kitchen Table Talk…
If you try one of my recipes, please let me know what you thought by sharing a comment in the area below. Of if you like this post, share it with your friends and family through your favorite social media service.