Food Buzz Badge

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Risotto alla Paesana, a/k/a Kitchen Sink Risotto

There comes a point where everyone has too many vegetables in their fridge and no idea how to use them.  Or maybe that's just me.

Until the much-discussed but not-progressing partial kitchen remodel happens, I have my current refrigerator, which I colloquially call "The Vegetable Murderer."

When we receive our CSA box every other Wednesday, it's always a scramble to use everything in the box before the Murderer gets to it.  I'm always looking for recipes to prevent mass vegetable homicide.

This risotto is adaptable to the vegetables that are gasping for survival in your refrigerator, or better yet, those you've found at your farmer's market or received in your CSA box.  In my case, the vegetables on which time was ticking were zucchini, mushrooms and celery.

Like many Italian specialties, this recipe involves very little meat.  Pancetta is the traditional ingredient, but since I bought some wonderful savory salumi at our local cheese store on Sunday, I used this instead.  If you can find Da Vino salumi, I highly recommend it.

The key to this risotto--and all risottos--is to take your time.  In homage to the Supremes, you can't hurry risotto.

Whatever you do, I beg of you, please do not skip the step of browning the rice--it adds an extra toastiness to the final product.

Risotto alla Paesana, a/k/a Kitchen Sink Risotto
Adapted from CIA Italian Cooking at Home

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. olive oil
2 oz. pancetta or salumi, sliced into small strips
3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/4 cups pearl or Arborio rice
2 quarts chicken broth, warmed and sitting on a burner on low
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups peas, either fresh or defrosted frozen
1 cup zucchini
1 cup sliced mushrooms
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan

Heat all of the olive oil in a large pan (I used a Le Creuset casserole) over medium heat.  Add the salumi, onion and celery.  Sauté for approximately five minutes, then add the garlic and sauté for another minute.

Add the rice and stir until it is coated with the oil and toasty, which should occur within two minutes.  Add a pinch of salt and taste--the broth will add lots of salt later, so be sparing with the added salt.

Add the bay leaves and enough broth just to cover the rice.  Stir frequently, until broth is absorbed.  Add the mushrooms.  Keep adding broth by cupfuls as the previous addition evaporates, stirring constantly to ensure that the rice is not sticking to the pot.

While the rice is cooking, warm a large skillet and add two tablespoons of butter.  Add the zucchini and peas and sauté for approximately three minutes, until the zucchini is lightly browned.  When the vegetables are cooked, remove them from the heat and set aside. 

When the rice cannot absorb further rice, stop adding broth and add the zucchini-pea mixture.  Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the last two tablespoons of butter and the cheese.  Stir until combined--the mixture will be a bit stiff, but this will make the risotto creamy.

Makes six to eight main-course servings.  David said this was "the best risotto" he'd ever had, but then he's biased.  We served the risotto with collard greens sautéed in olive oil and tossed with balsamic vinegar.

Wine pairing:  I recommend a full-bodied Italian white.  We had timorasso, which we bought in Pollenzo during our vacation this past spring.  Alternatively, pinot grigio or arneis would be delicious.