madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


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the red wine risotto and how life changes in one day

risotto, the ultimate Italian no-wheat marvel

There are days that change your life.

Have you ever wondered why so much of our lives is spent waiting for a situation to change?

Those days you wait so long for, they finally happen. This – in one or another way – is often a relief. In fact, for a few minutes, even hours if you are lucky, you don’t hang over the unknown. But then, after that fleeting moment, you are looking ahead again. The future with all its needs is calling you once more.

SO THE NEWS is that I have been diagnosed wheat and egg intolerance. I have known for years to be dairy intolerant. I don’t know if I am celiac, I will know it in a few weeks.

In any case for the moment I’ll have no eggs, no wheat pasta, no bread, no butter and cheese.I have been having bad digestion problems for so long that just knowing what I should eliminate from my diet is a relief.

Of course, it does feel like my world has gotten upside down. Me, that one who wanted to convince the world to make their own fresh pasta at least once a week. Me, that one who loves to cook for others, who basically exists on cooking for others.

The good news is that I can still cook for those I love. I’ll just need to make two menus now. And not even every day.

Recipe

  • 500 gr. / 1 lb Italian fresh sausages, grilled
  • 250 ml / 1 cup good quality red wine
  • 1 lt / 5 cups low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter or EVO oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cups arborio, vialone nano or carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or pecorino shavings
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Before starting please revise my risotto principles.

Grill the sausages, set aside and keep warm. I use our fantastic Umbrian sausages which are seasoned with garlic and black pepper but I would not be adverse to fennel seasoned sausages.

Make the risotto. In a large pan over low heat,  sauté the onion in butter, EVO oil or a mixture of the two until tender, about 8 minutes. Add rice and stir 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium/high and add 2 tablespoon wine. Cook until absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add the rest of the wine, one tablespoon at the time, stirring until it is absorbed.

Now lower the heat  and add 1/2 cup broth and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 4 minutes. After this initial stage you can continue to cook , adding more broth by ladlefuls and allowing liquid to be absorbed before adding more, stirring only after you have added the liquid.

When the rice is tender, but still has a bite, add more salt if necessary, 2 tablespoons Parmesan and once last ladleful of broth. For extra creaminess, add in 1 tablespoon cold diced butter which you need to stir vigorously. Cover and wait 5 min before serving. Serve topped with sliced sausages, a sprinkle of parsley ans shavings of Parmesan or pecorino.

For a dairy-free version omit the cheese and butter and serve with a drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil. It will still be delicious!

Serves 3-4


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cool inkeepers cook

my own emerald-green hill in a spring day, that's my house up there

FARROTTO.

I am a lucky woman. I am blessed by lots of lovely friends in all corners of the world. Many have all sort of interesting professions and hobbies.

Some of my coolest friends, Diana, Corinna, Giulia, Gloria, Rebecca, are innkeepers, just like me. We are the new career girls, we have first gone  into complicated studies at  prestigious universities and/or a career in entomology, physics, law, literature, languages, etc….

Then, as an obvious and logical consequence of the above efforts, we have become innkeepers.

So here we are, each one at the top of one or another emerald-green hill trying to convince the world to switch off the iphone for a moment and come to visit.  This is not an easy task, so we don’t have a lot of time to meet but when we do we have grand fun.

The recipe below is from Rebecca who lives on a green hill very near mine. In the winter, when all is quiet, we get a haircut and play the proper ladies of the house. See for yourselves how truly gracious we are:

Farrotto is a healthy version of risotto but it’s made with farro.  It’s a delicious dish good for all seasons and perfect for the last chilly evenings of spring.

Farro, or spelt in English, is an heirloom Italian grain very similar to barley. One can basically replace arborio rice with pearled farro in any risotto recipe, adding a bit to the cooking time, and end up with the same creaminess but with a more complex flavor and firmer grain.
Recipe

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 onion (or 2 shallots), chopped
  • about 4 cups mix of exotic and/or wood mushrooms (portobello, porcini, crimini, oyster, shitake)
  • about 1/2 cup white wine
  • about 5 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1.5 cup farro perlato (pearled)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan or aged pecorino
  • italian parsley to garnish

In medium saucepan, bring stock to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Meanwhile clean and chop the mushrooms and onion or shallot. In large saucepan, heat about half of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Using  a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl and set aside. Add remaining oil and onion or shallots and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the farro to the pan and stir to coat with oil. Add the wine and cook, stirring until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute until it evaporates off.   Add 1 cup hot stock to pan and stir in mushrooms. Cook, stirring and adding more hot stock as it is absorbed, until the farro is tender but still firm, about 40 minutes.

Mix in the Parmesan or pecorino and adjust salt if necessary.
Serve with additional freshly grated cheese on each serving.

Variations:  use red wine with strong flavored mushrooms, add asparagus or roasted squash/pumpkin, add freshly ground pepper, top with a dollop of garlicky red pepper and tomato sauce or add smoked pancetta to the initial sauté.


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sartù alla napoletana

the sartu rice timbale

the sartu, a spectacular rice timbale

The  Neapolitan SARTU’ is a sophisticated  timbale of rice filled with cheese, vegetables and meat.  The name Sartù originates from a silver table centerpiece or surtout, used by the Naples’ nobility to serve the most important dish of a formal dinner.

Rice, imported into Italy by the Spaniards in the XIV century, had been snobbed by the pasta-eater Neapolitans as tasteless and only good for curing stomach illness.

They took until the end of 1700 to be convinced otherwise. By then rice was all the rage in France, the Bourbons ruled Naples and French cooks ruled the kitchens of aristocratic  families. They made it complicated – as French style commands – as well as acceptable to the locals using popular ingredients such as tomato sauce and mozzarella.

Beyond its gallic construction however, Sartù is an encyclopedia of Italian cooking, if you make that you can practically make everything else.

The traditional recipe involves the use of lard, aged pecorino cheese and a thick meat ragout with chicken livers. I prefer a light tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese. It’s rich enough like this and feeds a small army. Remember,  it’s so delicious that if you make it once for your family, they will ask it over and over again.

If you really like to “strengthen” the sauce, cook the sausages in it, rather than grilling them.

Recipe

For the rice “shell”:

  • 1 recipe tomato sauce with basil
  • 450 gr. (1 pound) vialone nano, arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg

For the filling:

  • 1 recipe polpettine (mini meatballs):
  • 1 recipe  piselli al prosciutto (peas with ham)
  • 1 recipe funghi trifolati (sauteed mushrooms)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup Béchamel sauce
  • 200  gr. (7 ounces) fresh mozzarella,  diced
  • 100 gr. (3 ounces) fresh pork sausage, fried (or grilled) and sliced

Prepare shell and filling:

Make a basic tomato sauce. Cook rice in plenty boiling hot water or stock for half of its cooking time, strain. Add egg, Parmesan cheese, tomato sauce, season with salt and pepper. If possible prepare the rice and sauce mixture one day in advance, it’s much easier to handle if it is cold.

Prepare meatballs, peas with ham, sauteed mushroom and Béchamel  sauce.

Assemble Sartu’
Preheat oven at 200°C (40o°F).
Butter generously a round 30 cm (11 inch)  ovenproof dish and dust it with breadcrumbs. Line the dish with a 2 cm (3/4 inch) thick layer of rice. You need to make sure that the rice layer is compact enough on the sides so that it will hold the filling.

Layer all other ingredients in the rice “shell” starting with the mini-meatballs and sausages and ending with the white sauce. Cover with the rest of the rice. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs, a couple of tablespoon Parmesan and dot with a butter. Bake for 20-30 min until slightly golden. Allow to rest for at least 10 min before serving.

Serves 8

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