Risotto al Limone e Rosmarino
I love working with lemons in the kitchen. The scent of just-grated lemon zest makes me smile, wakes me up, lifts my spirits. And there is only one other savoury lemon dish - I'll tell you which soon - that I enjoy as much as I enjoy this deliciously creamy risotto that is so brimful of fresh and zingy flavour.
It is not quite your usual risotto. It is finished not with cheese and butter but with a mix of milk, eggs, lemon zest and juice, and grated cheese. The late addition of this liquid mixture makes it easier to achieve the almost runny pouring consistency known in the Veneto region as "all'onda". And the finishing touch of finely minced rosemary adds another subtle note to the bouquet.
This risotto is a variation on the classic "Riso in Bianco" or plain white rice. Riso in Bianco is what you should eat, in Italy, if you have an upset stomach or if you are in convalescence, as it is considered "light", meaning it does not make too many demands on your digestive system. It is made using only rice, a simple vegetable stock, olive oil to replace richer butter and a little grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
This particular risotto with the addition of eggs is a spring dish. Eggs practically symbolise spring as that is when free range hens start laying again, hence Easter Eggs. I usually make it with the eggs used for pasta in Emilia-Romagna, eggs which have yolks of a startling deep rich orange. This photo is of the one we made on the cooking class at Palazzo Fantini that just ended. There I was lucky enough to buy very special eggs at the excellent Tredozio village green grocer: the beautiful narrow elongated eggs of the ancient large crested hen called "Gallina Padovana" or "Paduan Chicken", a rare prestige breed,.
The drawing of it below is by Ulisse Aldrovandi, a scholarly Bologna monk and a great natural historian. It is the first formal record of the breed, from his "Historia Animalium", which he produced in the years between 1599 and 1613.
The special eggs gave great colour and made a sunny cheerful dish. The fresh light flavours evoked many sighs and murmurs of
pleasures, many "ooohs" and "aaahs" from my
cooking class guests. So here is the recipe for one of my favourite
dishes, I would be happy to know it has become one of your favourites too.
For four people you will need:
300g risotto rice ideally Carnaroli
Traditionally rice was measured in fistfulls: one for each person and one or two for the pot. Of course you adjust if you know you have a larger or smaller fist than the average person.
100 ml milk
100 ml dry white wine
50g fresh onion (cipollotto) or use scallions
50g just grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 egg yolks
2 organic lemons
about a litre of vegetable stock (made by placing a small onion, a small carrot and a stick of celery in cold water, bringing to the boil, then lowering the heat and simmering for at least 45 minutes, slat at the end)
fresh rosemary sprigs, the number of sprigs is up to you
To make the Risotto:
Place the stock on heat and keep at low simmer.
Finely finely mince the rosemary leaves stripped from the stalks.
Finely dice the fresh onion. Soften and wilt it well in a little olive oil mixed with water, till it has lost all crunch and is white and milky
Grate the zest - i.e. yellow part only, of the 2 lemons and squeeze one of them
Mix the egg yolks with the milk, the grated cheese, the juice of a lemon and the grated zest of two lemons and set aside.
Heat a little olive oil in heavy bottom wide pot. Add the rice and fry till opaque and making a rustling sound as you stir. Deglaze with the dry white wine and let the wine evaporate over fairly low heat.
If you wish, when the wine has almost all evaporated, set a timer for 15 minutes - the rice needs 18 minutes to cook through but this takes into account the 5 minute rest off the heat (see below).
Add hot stock to keep the rice just barely covered and stir the rice constantly, to help extract the starches that will give you a creamy consistency and to make sure the rice at the bottom cooks as fast as the rice on top
When the rice is a few minutes away form being done - judging this does need experience of risotto cooking, or use a timer as suggested above - take it off the heat. Stir in the egg, milk, cheese and lemon mixture. Also add the very finely minced rosemary at this point
Cover and leave to rest for 5 minutes, so the flavours blend and the rice absorbs some of the liquids just added and finishes cooking - do taste and est and leave longer if necessary.
Serve from the cooking pot, garnished with rosemary sprigs or fresh lemon slices.
I have a "bare cupboard" version that simply adds 50g of butter, 100g of Parmigiano-Rerggiano and the grated rind of one lemon to the risotto cooked with vegetable stock. It is richer because of the cheese and butter, but also very aromatic and quite delicious.
You can use Marjoram in place of the Rosemary for a more delicately scented version