madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


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zucchini and sausage risotto

magical autumnal views from our windows

I am sure there must be an ancient proverb saying: whenever you add a good sausage to your food, it will be delicious. I do apply it with restrain so that I can fit through the doors, but it works every time.

Of course, you will say. You are in Umbria, you worship sausages.

Yes, but there are rules. I don’t buy mass-produced sausages. They are made with inordinate amounts of fat and up to 60% of their weight is water. If you cook those sausages in a pan they will release a puddle of heart-clogging greasy liquid.

I buy sausages from my fabulous butcher Guglielmo whose father actually raises a small number of pigs with proper feed. The sizzling sausages release that mouth-watering BBQ-like aroma wich attracts Google (our dog) from 100 mt away. They have just enough fat to cover the morsels in a thin gleaming coating. A small amount goes a long way and does not deposit so heavily on the hips ;) .

Recipe

  • 300 gr (3/4 lb) fresh sausage. Umbrian sausage is seasoned with garlic and black pepper.
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 zucchini, diced
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 lt / 5 cups low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 2 cups arborio, vialone nano or carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Saute zucchini in 1 tablespoon olive oil until they just start to become golden. Make sure to use a relatively large pan so the zucchini will cook quickly and don’t boil in their own moisture. Add a pinch of salt, one finely minced clove of garlic and a few torn basil leaves, stir quickly and as soon as it is fragrant transfer into a bowl.

Add one additional tablespoon of olive oil to the same pan, one diced onion, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and the sausage meat torn in small pieces. Sauté over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking up the sausage pieces with fork, about 10 minutes. Deglaze with 1/4 cup white wine. Switch off heat and keep covered until ready to serve.

Add rice and stir 1 minute. Increase heat, add the rest of the wine and cook until absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup broth and simmer until 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 season to taste. For extra creaminess finish with 1 additional tbsp cold diced butter stirring vigorously. Stir in the zucchini, the sausage, 2 tablespoons Parmesan and once last ladleful of broth. Cover and wait 5 min before serving. Serve, passing the remaining Parmesan separately.

a lovely meal for the first chilly evenings of fall


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risotto con asparagi e pancetta

risotto with saffron, pancetta and green asparagus

Ask 2 Italians what’s the correct way to prepare pasta. You will get the same story from both: al dente, toss with sauce, serve piping hot. Ask two Italians how to make a risotto. You will get 2 stories. Ask 4 of them, you will get 4 stories.  Stir, don’t stir. Use only butter, oil’s forbidden. No! olive oil’s  OK. Condiments at the beginning, no, at the end. Rest, don’t rest. Finish with cream? No cold butter! Vialone? Arborio? Carnaroli?

I am a “non native” risotto eater. They don’t make risotto in Umbria, so I can’t tell you how my grandma made it. Nor my mum who – being Sicilian and adverse to creamy dishes –  did not like it. I  also happen to be fond of dishes full of flavor, light in texture and calories and made with minimal attendance.

So if you like those stodgy concoctions obtained by beating the life out of the poor grains until they disintegrate and then cemented by extravagant amounts of cheese and butter, please read no further.

Here are my own fundamental rules:

1)  Good quality risotto rice. I prefer Carnaroli which has a nutty taste and does not overcook easily. Arborio and Vialone Nano are also good but I have never found a non-Italian rice that will work for a risotto.

2) Good quality stock, bought, canned, homemade, you choose but nothing with that MSG taste will do

3) I use a large heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. The rice has to be in a thin layer all the time so the grains cook slowly at the same temperature. This way I only stir when I add the liquid and then let it sweetly simmer until most of the stock is evaporated. Meanwhile I have a life.

4) I cook condiments – i.e. vegetables, meat or seafood – separately and add them when the rice is almost ready. Then I sprinkle some herbs if the recipe needs it.

Recipe

  • 30 gr. / 1 ounce pancetta cut into tiny strips
  • 400 gr/ 1 pound green asparagus
  • 1 garlic clove
  • a few strands of saffron
  • 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 freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the pancetta in small nonstick skillet until translucent. Add the saffron strands to 2 tablespoon of  broth and let it soak. Trim asparagus, toss with one tablespoon EVO oil and broil/grill until just tender. Add one garlic clove finely chopped and cover to infuse for at least  5 min. Chop the garlic infused asparagus in 2 cm /1 inch pieces, cover again and reserve.

Risotto will have a completely different taste is made with butter or olive oil. Butter gives a richer and creamier texture. Olive oil is more gentle with delicate condiments like spring vegetables and seafood.

Add rice and stir 1 minute. Add wine and cook until absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup broth and simmer until 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 the golden saffron liquid to the rice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  For extra creaminess finish with cold diced butter stirring vigorously. Stir in the asparagus, the pancetta, 2 tablespoons  Parmesan and once last ladleful of broth. Cover and wait 5 min before serving. Serve, passing the remaining Parmesan separately.


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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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