From our kitchen to yours

Anneliese Abney

I secretly love Italian food — pasta, ravioli, tiramisu, chianti, gelato; it’s all so decadent and delicious. But I had never had risotto before a family friend made it for a potluck. I mean, rice? In Italian food? I have to admit to having had some skepticism.

In true Italian style, she made buckets of it, which was a blessing because we just couldn’t get enough! Since then, this particular version of the classic Italian rice dish has become a staple in my family’s culinary repertoire. And it’s quite easily vegan-ized, which is not always achievable with Italian food. I hope you enjoy!

What you need:

  • 1/3 cup dried wild mushrooms, preferably porcini
  • 6 oz fresh cultivated mushrooms, cleaned and finely sliced
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 6 tablespoons (about 3/4 stick) butter, or you can use Earth Balance or oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 3/4 cups vegetable stock — preferably homemade, or from bouillion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups medium-grain risotto rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

First, place the dried mushrooms in warm water to soak for at least 40 minutes.

Then, rinse the mushrooms thoroughly, saving the soaking water by filtering it into a bowl through a sieve lined with a paper towel.

Set both the soaked mushrooms and the mushroom water aside.

Clean the fresh mushrooms with a paper towel, then slice them and place them in a bowl with your lemon juice.

In a large, heavy frying pan, melt a third of the butter, then stir in the fresh mushrooms and sauté them over moderate heat until they begin to brown.

Stir in parsley for 30 seconds and set aside.

Place stock in a saucepan, add mushroom water and heat to a simmer. Keep the liquid warm as you heat another third of the butter and the olive oil in the same pan the mushrooms were cooked in.

Add onions to the pan with the butter and olive oil and fry until they turn translucent.

Add the rice and stir until evenly coated in oils — about one to two minutes.

Add the soaked and sauteed mushrooms and mix well.

Pour in the wine, raise the heat slightly and cook over moderate heat until the liquid evaporates.

Then, add one small ladle-full of the hot broth. Cook over medium heat until the broth is absorbed, stirring the rice constantly with a wooden spoon. Add a little more broth and stir until the rice dries out again.

Continue this process for about 20 minutes, then taste the rice and adjust the dish to taste with salt and pepper.

Keep cooking the rice, stirring and adding broth until the rice is “al dente” — tender, but still firm to bite.

The process should take about 35 minutes in total. If you don’t have enough broth, don’t sweat it — just use hot water.

Once you’re done cooking, remove the risotto from the heat, and stir in the remaining butter and the parmesan cheese. Grind in a little fresh black pepper.

Let the dish rest for a few minutes before you dish up. Garnish with flat leaf parsley.

Serves 4.

Buon appetito!