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Friday, November 6, 2009

Risotto alla Milanese


The classic. Risotto alla Milanese.

In case you missed it, yesterday's Italian Notebook featured an amusing article about the story behind risotto alla milanese. Whether the tale of the Duomo painting assistant nicknamed Zafferano is true or not, it makes for good reading, and definitely a fun explanation for how the traditional risotto here in the northern regions of Italy came to be made always with saffron. With the winter months coming now, risotto alla milanese will be second only to polenta as the accompaniment of choice to the brasato, stufato (braised beef and stews), and osso buco that are so common, and you can be sure that it will be seen on my plate a lot.

But there are variations on the theme, and risotto is made and found in local restaurants with many other additions beyond the traditional saffron. I remember one in particular, a very special plate of champagne risotto I ate at il Ristorante Arc en Ciel, on Via P. Tomaso in Stresa. I had it as my primo at this meal; for my antipasto there was a refreshing plate of melone e prosciutto crudo. In my mind a perfect summer northern Italian meal. I regret that I didn't take photos that evening, and so you'll need to imagine this champagne risotto, with a good quarter bottle of champagne added before the broth, and vegetable broth used in place of beef broth. The result is creamy, white risotto, rich tasting, with just a hint of tartness from the champagne.

The champagne version. Lighter, whiter, creamier.

Giuseppe and I have made many pots of risotto. One winner was our prosecco risotto prepared alla versione Marchesi. This is a reference to the great Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi, who makes risotto with water instead of broth. We tried just this, and created a perfect and light risotto with prosecco, which, per essere onesta, to be honest, I preferred even to the champagne version, as I for one will take prosecco any day over champagne.

The point is, experiment. Learn the basics, as in the recipe presented in Italian Notebook, and then have some fun experimenting with various additions. Here's an earlier post I wrote about another practice, that of adding the ends of parmesan cheese to the risotto. Enjoy...



Here's a link again to the Italian Notebook note on risotto alla milanese: www.italiannotebook.com/food-wine/legend-risotto-alla-milanese/
Note added 2012: Arc en Ciel has closed.

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