In Italy, rice is to the North as pasta is to the South. It is said that Lombardy’s Milan is where the first classic risotto was prepared. And the most widely known, Risotto alla Milanese, is from here.
Arborio the most widely used rice in the preparation of risotto, as the grains are less likely to break during cooking and the rice absorbs a lot of liquid while retaining a firmness and a bite.
Italian risotto is quite different from rice, as we know it. It is a dish in itself. Rarely served with meat, chicken, pork or fish. An exception, risotto alla Milanese served with osso bucco.
Normally served as a first course, risotto can also be a main course.
Practically any ingredient, meat, fish, fowl, herb, vegetable, cheese, or sausage can be added to a risotto to flavor it. However, the basic method for preparing risotto is the same. To absorb a little broth at a time till is reaches a creamy consistency, tender grains with slight chewiness.
The idea is to “insaporire” the rice, to flavor it with the ingredients of choice.
Porcini Mushroom Risotto
3/4 cup (about 1/3 oz) dried porcini mushrooms
4 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
8 oz bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, minced (about 1 cup)
2 1/4 cup (about 1 lb) Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh-ground pepper
Dried bread crumbs
Make the mushroom broth: Bring 4 cups water to a simmer in a medium saucepan, completely submerge the mushrooms, and soak for 25 minutes. Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon and slice into 1/2-inch pieces. Strain the water and return it to the saucepan; add the chicken broth, bring to a simmer, and keep warm.
Make the risotto: Cook bacon in a large saucepan until crisp. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside; reserve fat. Sauté onions in 2 tablespoons bacon fat until translucent — about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook over medium heat until slightly translucent — about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until absorbed. Add 1 cup of hot broth, stirring constantly, and cook until absorbed, continue stirring and adding broth by the cupfuls until risotto is creamy and rice is cooked through but slightly al dente — about 25 minutes. Stir in the bacon, Parmesan, salt, and pepper and serve immediately or freeze.
Freeze the leftover risotto: Shape 1/4 cupfuls of cooled risotto into 2-inch patties and coat with bread crumbs. Stack patties between sheets of waxed paper and transfer to an airtight container. Store frozen for up to 2 months. To serve, cook frozen patties in a lightly oiled or buttered skillet for 6 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels.