Monday, November 10, 2008

Risotto Con Olive E Peperoni Rossi

Risotto with Olives and Red Peppers. This is a robust risotto, rich with mediterranean flavors. Use olives that have been pitted and marinated with herbs and garlic, available from some grocery stores or check your local Italian delis. Don't use the canned variety. Roasting peppers concentrates their flavor by caramelizing their natural juices.

This recipe is adapted from the cookbook Risotto by Ursula Ferrigno. Here are the ingredients and exact measurements from the book:
2 medium red peppers
4 C vegetable stock (I used something different)
1/4 C unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
8 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 C risotto rice such as vialone nano, carnaroli, or arborio (I used arborio)
1/3 C white wine
1 1/2 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/3 C black olives, about 10, pitted and coarsely chopped
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped, plus extra to serve (I skipped this, even though I had it)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (The olives added enough salt for me, I did not add any more seasoning, just additional CHEESE)

Other additions to my risotto were:
2 oz Gorgonzola cheese (I purchased the crumbled kind)
2 oz Fontina cheese, cut into cubes

Risotto rice, chicken broth, garlic, parsley, shallots, red peppers, white wine, olive oil, butter...

Cheeses: gorgonzola, fontina and parmesan. AND my favorite: kalamata olives.

Wash and dry the red pepper. There are several ways to roast your red peppers. I've never tried it, but I've read that if you have a gas stove top you can place them right on the open flame until blistered and charred. I put these on a foil lined baking sheet and turned on the broiler, then placed the peppers on the top rack of my oven. Every 10 minutes I peeked in and turned them over if necessary. You want the outside black (you peel it off later). The recipe says this will take 20 minutes, mine took about 40 minutes. Maybe stove top would be faster, I will have to give that a shot.

Look! Ever seen this before? I'm sure a homemade chicken stock would be better, but making risotto is time consuming enough so I opted for this new broth flavored with white wine, thyme, oregano and rosemary. Put all this broth in a pot on the stove and heat over low heat. You want it hot, barely simmering but not boiling.
Holy cow, eight shallots.

Shortcut! I used my small chopper on these shallots.

Here is about a cup of the kalamata olives, pits removed... into the chopper.

Everything is prepped and read to go -let's get cooking. I use this dutch oven (it's a Rachael Ray pot, lime green to match my kitchen - I love to use it) because it has a heavy bottom and non-stick enamel surface.

Melt butter with some olive oil over medium-heat.

Add shallots and cook for 1-2 minutes, until softened but not browned. Then add the garlic and stir that around a little. You want to sweat these but don't let them turn brown, maybe 30 seconds to a minute.

Add rice, stir with a wooden spoon (yes, the recipe specifies what kind of spoon) and stir until the grains are well coated and glistening, about 1 minute.

Add white wine and stir until it is completely absorbed.

Then add 1 ladle of hot stock and simmer, stirring until it has been absorbed by the rice. Continue to add the stock at intervals and cook as before, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender but still firm (al dente), about 20 minutes. Reserve the last ladle of stock, we are going to add it as the very last thing.

Meanwhile, my red peppers are blistered and charred, so I removed from the oven and placed in a zip top bag to steam. Looking at them now in this picture, I would have waited until they were REALLY black before steaming them. This is good enough though. At this point in my cooking, my risotto is coming along nicely and I'm getting hungry. You can't even imagine how good all this smells as you are cooking.

While I continue to add broth and stir the risotto, I simultaneously cut up my cheese and portion all three out.

Once all the broth has been incorporated (one ladle at a time) I add the black olives and the cheese.

Once the red peppers have steamed for 10 minutes, we will peel the skins off, cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the seeds.

This is a messy step, and especially hard if your red peppers are still hot. Once you have the skin peeled off and you throw the seeds away, dice the pepper into small squares.

Add to the risotto along with your last ladle of broth. Mix well. Remove from the heat, cover and let rest for 2 minutes. This is the LONGEST TWO MINUTES EVER.

But finally when the wait is over, you can spoon into bowls, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately. I topped mine off with some parmesan cheese and a little parsley.
...okay, lot's of parmesan cheese.

Have you made homemade risotto? What kinds have you tried?

I'm going to end this post with the Forward from the cookbook, writted by Ursula Farrigno. This is a great overview about risotto and makes the whole involved process less intimidating.

Italians adore their pasta, but they also love risotto. Throughout Italy, and especially in the north, rice forms a large part of the nation's diet - probably because the dishes are quick to prepare, nutritious, inexpensive, and addictively delicious. They are also versatile - perfect for relaxed, weekday meals or elegant dinner parties.

Risotto is made with short-grain rice, which absorbs a large amount of liquid without the grains losing their bite. There are three main varieties: arborio, carnaroli, and vialone nano. Each one brings a slightly different texture to the dish. Arboria, perhaps the best-known, produces a dense risotto that can become too stiff if overcooked. Carnaroli is the most expensive, but its tender yet firm grain is ideal for risotto. It is also the least likely to overcook. Vialone nano is favored by Venetian cooks. (This is Ursula's preferred rice) It gives a creamy, voluptuous risotto. Italian delis and an increasing number of supermarkets now sell a good range of risotto rice.

Perfect risotto is easy to achieve. All you need is a good-quality risotto rice, homemade stock, a wide, shallow pan, and 18-20 minutes of constant stirring while the rice cooks. There are no short cuts.

Good risotto is made in stages. The key is to add hot, flavorful stock - a ladleful at a time - to the rice in the pan, stirring constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente. It should never be dry or sticky, but have a "wave-like" (all'onda) consistency. A risotto should stand for 2 minutes before serving, then be spooned into warmed bowls, not plates, and served with a fork, never a spoon. (oops, I ate mine with a spoon...who cares!)

--end forward--

The moral of the story is that risotto is very yummy and surprisingly easy. There are four steps.

  1. Lightly cook shallots in oil and butter until softened.
  2. Add rice and stir until well coated and glistening.
  3. Add stock, a ladleful at a time, and simmer, stirring until absorbed before adding more. Repeat until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender but still firm.
  4. Mix in flavorings, such as vegetables, herbs, and cheese.

Go forth - make risotto - and say "mmmmm, this is good!"


  1. This looks creamy and amazing, love all those cheeses. I've actually never roasted a pepper! It's a sad thing to admit, my grandmother does it all the time over an open flame; I've always used the fact that I have an electric stove as my excuse. Now that I know I can do it in my oven, I won't have any excuses ;). Thanks for sharing :D!

  2. Mmm, that looks yummy. Although I don't think I have the patience to make it. :(

  3. Oh this looks heavenly...all my favorites (especially the olives!!)...if you can believe this, I'm Italian and really don't think I've ever had risotto but a few times (none that I can really remember!)...I did make the Barefoot Bloggers Butternut Squash risotto but I was experimenting with brown rice so it was a little different.

    What a great dish!

    So what was in your birthday box? Did I miss it in the post?


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