Italian food is just wonderful! Today is another Great Risotto Dish. Risotto is always a meditation in cooking. A quiet kitchen, a wooden spoon, some rice and a large pot.
From years ago, when I was first making risotto, and still today, I amazed friends who pop in unexpectedly. I pick tomatoes, salad greens, chilli and rosemary from the garden, pull some stock and tomato paste from the freezer, and cook this risotto in approx. 30 minutes. I serve it with a garden salad and fresh fruit for dessert. They are always pretty impressed!
If you haven’t cooked risotto before, here are some basics.
This is a vegetarian recipe from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2006. You can browse other recipes from this blog in our Retro Recipes series.
Rice for Risotto
There are a few risotto rices available. Rices suitable for risotto have a creamy, chewy texture due to its higher amylopectin (one of two components in its starch) content. Aborio is a very popular risotto rice, but it is fun to experiment with different rices. Your Italian grocery will most likely stock alternative risotto rices. There is an argument that aborio is not the best rice for risotto. Most recommended alternatives are carnaroli and vialone nano. Currently I have been using Riso Vialone Nano, and it is a cracker. Vialone Nano has a round, thick grain and a kernel that is very unlikely to break. It is good for risottos with robust ingredients- and it is now a favorite.
Risotto with Tomato
5 cups vegetable stock, or (as last resort) water
400g can Roma Tomatoes, or mixture of fresh and canned tomatoes
1 – 2 Tblspn tomato paste
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 small red chilli, finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
5 Tblspn olive oil
350g arborio rice
1 onion, finely chopped
100g black olives, pitted (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C. Brush a baking dish with 2 Tblspn of the oil. Cover the base with the tomatoes and juice from the can and/or fresh tomatoes. Add the tomato paste, rosemary, garlic and chillies. Season with salt and pepper, and bake in the oven for around 30 minutes.
Heat the stock or water and bring to the boil.
In a heavy based pan, heat the oil and the butter, add the onion and cook for until translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat. Stir for 2 minutes until you hear a cracking sound and the rice becomes translucent. Add a ladle of the simmering water or stock, and stir until it is absorbed. Continue adding more liquid in this manner until the rice is cooked.
Taste after 18 minutes. The rice should be firm to the bite. If you like it less chalky, cook for up to another 5 minutes, so that it is tender in the middle, but not soft.
When the rice is cooked (still a little al dente), add the tomato mixture and the olives and give it a gentle stir. Season, rest for two minutes and serve.
You can add a little more butter at the end by stirring it through.
If you have one of the home made tomato pastes, sauces or purees in the freezer, feel free to use it in place of the tomatoes