Risotto with Zucchini, Mint & Pink Peppercorn
Creamy, delicate and just delicious, the combination of zucchini, mint and pink peppercorn in this risotto is a match made in heaven.
Risotto is one of Italy's most traditional dishes. Mastering the technique requires definitely more practice than, say pasta but here are a few tricks that I guarantee will make you a pro.
For perfect risotto every time, remember to follow my easy tips below. But first things first, you'll need:
Ingredients (for 2)
180g Carnaroli rice
1.5 veggie stock
1 tbsp evo oil
1/2 banana shallot, finely minced
1 zucchini, sliced thinly
Salt and pepper to taste
1 sprig mint leaves finely chopped
1 tsp pink peppercorn, coarsely crushed
2 knobs butter
Method (& Tips)
Choosing the rice. You can't just use ANY rice, but there are three varieties that all work really well - Carnaroli, Arborio and Vialone Nano. These are rich in starch, for an extra creamy result, and have slightly larger grains which makes them harder to overcook.
Choosing the pot. It shouldn't be tall and narrow, as the rice at the top will cook unevenly. It's better to use a 20cm (at least) wide, shallow pot or pan. An old pan with a thick bottom is perfect. Try to avoid non-stick pans.
The stock. It's important to add this ladle by ladle to the rice, and not all at once. It's also important to not add cold stock or it will lower the rice temperature. Keep a pot of stock simmering next to the rice. You can use anything to flavour your stock but make sure the flavours complement those in your risotto. When I make stock for risotto, I only use veggies that are mild - carrot, potato, celery and onion. Avoid using for example cauliflowers or kale in your stock as the flavour would be too overpowering.
Follow the right steps. Namely these are: tostatura, soffritto, sfumatura, cottura, mantecatura.
During tostatura, you toast the rice on its own on a high flame, without adding any oil or butter.
Next, you add extra virgin olive oil and finely minced onion, carrot, celery - this is called soffritto - and sauté for a few minutes.
Sfumatura is another important step, though some skip it, and consists on adding a splash of wine (usually a dry white wine works well with any type of risotto) to the pan and increasing the flame to highest for a few seconds to then return it to medium. The high heat will make the alcohol evaporate while imparting the risotto a nice smoky flavour.
Only then you start cottura, basically cooking rice by adding the stock. This is also when you add any other ingredient like veggies, seasoning and spices.
Lastly, mantecatura. When the risotto is nearly cooked, turn off the heat and cover to rest for a minute or so. Then add grated cheese, a knob of butter or a drizzle of olive oil and one last splash of stock. Fresh herbs or anything to decorate the plate are added now too. You let is rest for a few seconds before plating and serving.
It's important to serve risotto immediately after as it tends to get overcooked and lumpy in its steam. It also dries up quickly so this is definitely not a dish that lends itself to be made in advance, or re-heated the next day.
And that's it really! You can apply these simple tips to any risotto, but give it a try with the ingredients above!
Word of the Day
(Burro, pronounced bùr·ro)