I don’t usually buy flavoured rice, or indeed many flavoured anythings. I generally prefer to do my own flavouring. However, when I saw a pack of risotto rice flavoured with dried radicchio in the wonderful Corto Italian Deli, it seemed too tempting to resist.
I just love radicchio and it’s proved impossible to buy in recent years. I once bought it regularly in Waitrose but they haven’t stocked it for years and nor have any other supermarkets I’ve been to. It’s strange. It’s frequently an ingredient in bags of mixed salad but I never see the actual thing – a head of fresh radicchio – anywhere. I discussed this with Romina in Corto – she showed me the radicchio she had, ready to put in salads, but said she got it from a supplier and agreed it was hard to buy. She told me she preferred radicchio di Treviso, which is longer than the round radicchio di Chioggia that’s most commonly found in UK. I’ve seen radicchio di Treviso in Italy, with its long leaves and fairly wide white stems, but never in UK. Here it is from a trip to Rome a few years ago – labelled Tardivo but the same as Radicchio di Treviso.
Romina assured me that the radicchio flavoured risotto rice was very good and because I know she stocks the very best Italian ingredients I decided to buy a pack. Obviously I was going to make risotto but had some pancetta in my fridge and thought that would be a nice addition. Radicchio and pancetta or bacon are quite a popular combination and I’d seen risotto recipes combining radicchio and red wine. So, that all sounded good and supper was sorted!
Radicchio, Pancetta & Red Wine Risotto (serves 1)
- ½ cup radicchio risotto rice
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 77g diced pancetta (or streaky bacon)
- about 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 50ml red wine
- about 1½ cups hot stock or water
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 10g butter
- some freshly ground Parmesan
Measure the rice into a cup.
Put the shallot and pancetta in a pan with the olive oil. Cook over a medium heat until the pancetta is lightly coloured all over and the shallot softening.
Add the rice and cook, stirring all the time, for a couple of minutes so each grain of rice is covered in oil. Now pour in the red wine and season with freshly ground black pepper. You can add a little salt but may not need it as the pancetta will be quite salty and if your stock is also salted, then it’s probably best to leave adding extra salt until the end.
Stir well and let it bubble gently, stirring most of the time, until the red wine is absorbed. Now start adding the hot stock or water, little by little and continuing to stir. Stirring is what breaks up the starches in the rice and gives the risotto its creamy texture. It may sound hard work but for me it’s the wonder of making risotto, so relaxing and a time to really put love into your food.
Keep adding the stock until the rice is almost cooked – it should have that al dente bite to it: cooked but still with a little resistance when bitten. You want the liquid to be absorbed but the overall risotto still nicely wet and not dry. This is risotto – not pilau! Turn off the heat and check seasoning. Now add the butter and a little grated Parmesan. Stir and put the lid back on and leave for a minute or two. Then it’s ready to serve.
I served mine with simple salad of rocket and finely sliced fennel.
The risotto looked very inviting. I grated some extra Parmesan on top and drizzled over a little olive oil.
It felt like a very wintry risotto with its deep red colour and deep warming flavours. Just perfect for a cold February evening! It was a wonderful combination of flavours: bitter radicchio, salty pancetta and a sweetness from the creamy risotto, butter and Parmesan.
The radicchio flavoured risotto rice was brilliant and I’ll definitely buy more. It’s very pure – just Carnaroli rice, dried radicchio and a little dried parsley and onion. No extras. If you’re not lucky enough to have a wonderful Italian deli near you like Corto, but you can actually find fresh radicchio, then do try making this risotto with that!