Risotto with radicchio
There are some keys to success with risotto. The first is to use a proper Italian risotto rice. If arborio is not available, use carnaroli, vialone nano or another similar type of round medium- or short-grain rice. The second key is: don’t wash the rice. This would remove the starch that is essential to making a creamy risotto. The third is to use homemade broth, and not a bouillon cube, which would lend the risotto a chemical aftertaste. And finally, do not use pre-grated parmesan. Grate the cheese yourself no more than an hour before you intend to use it in order to retain maximum flavor.
This recipe is adapted from two sources: a cookbook by Toni Vianello, who used to run a wonderful Italian bistro in my neighborhood called l’Osteria (Le Risotto, Jean-Paul Rocher Editeur, 2001), and a chef in Venice, name unknown, who was kind enough to share his recipe with me when I first tasted risotto al radicchio at a small hotel on the Lido in 2008.
Unlike most risottos, this one is made with red wine, not white (use a drinkable dry red wine like a merlot). And, unusually, the broth is added all at once, and not ladleful by ladleful. That is Toni Vianello’s method and, believe it or not, it works.
1-1/2 cup (300 g.) Italian arborio rice
1 pound (500 g.) radicchio
3 cups (3/4 liter) chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 medium onion, peeled and minced
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. (30 g.) butter
2 ounces (60 g.) freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup red wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rinse the radicchio and shake dry. Cut in quarters. Remove the root and discard. Slice the remaining leaves crosswise to make strips.
In a large frying pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil to sizzling. Add the radicchio, turn down the heat to medium and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The leaves should retain some crunchiness. Remove from heat. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.
In a saucepan, heat the chicken or vegetable broth to simmering.
In a separate heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil. When the oil is sizzling, add the minced onion. Turn down the heat to medium and stir with a wooden spatula for about 5 minutes, until the onion is wilted. Do not let the onion brown.
Add the rice to the onion and stir with your spatula until all the grains are coated with oil and turning translucent. Add the wine and stir. Simmer until the wine is absorbed — a couple of minutes. Add the hot broth, stir, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.
Allow the rice to cook gently for 10 minutes. Then add the radicchio and allow to cook for 5 minutes more. Turn off the heat. Add the butter and grated parmesan without stirring. Cover and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Now mix well, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve at once in shallow bowls. Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a starter.