Spring Pea Basil Risotto and a Pair of Piedmont Wines

I might not choose to serve risotto on the hottest day of the summer, but it makes a fine dinner on days when the A/C is off and the windows are open.  Risotto’s historic home is the Piedmont area of Italy, so we decided to match the meal with wines from the same area.  We enjoyed both the Gavi and the Barbaresco with this risotto centered dinner.

Grows together, goes together!

Grows together, goes together!  Piedmont wines and risotto.

Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco “Asili” 2009 ($45)
Oh, so Barbaresco.  Loved it!
Eye: Translucent red with orange edges.
Nose: Clearly Nebbiolo.  I read it as red fruit, pine needles, red candy.
Mouth: Astringent, clearly Nebbiolo.  Red fruit, nice finish. Cuts through rich risotto nicely.  Still, a bit of richness and fullness compared to the Gavi white. While it is powerful, it does not seem heavy.

Ca' del Baio Barbaresco, a powerful wine yet enjoyable in the summer.

Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco, a powerful wine yet enjoyable in the summer.

Cristina Ascheri Gavi 2010 ($22)
This was our first Gavi and we didn’t know what to expect.
This is what we found from the winery website:  Produced with Cortese grapes.  Its an elegant wine of a pale straw yellow colour with a light green vein.  Its got a flowery bouquet with citrous and fresh fruit notes.  Its delicate and pleasant with a remarkable freshness.  4 months in steel.
Our thoughts: Overall, reminds me of Viognier with full mouthfeel, waxy texture, but not oaky, good acidity.
Eye: Light, warm lemon yellow, not too dark, some tiny bubbles.
Nose: Beeswax, peach pits.
Mouth: Rich full mouthfeel, but good acidity.  Not oaky at all, full bodied yet refreshing.  I thought it was a touch frizzante on the first night.

Gavi is a lesser known white wine from the Piedmont.

Gavi is a lesser known white wine from the Piedmont.

Spring Pea and Basil Risotto


There are hundreds of basic risotto recipes.  This one is adapted from an excellent book on Piedmont cuisine: “A Passion for Piedmont” by Matt Kramer (of Wine Spectator).  Matt includes a bit about the history and tradition of a few key foods which originated in the Piedmont, and risotto is one of them.

Risotto Advice (from “A Passion for Piedmont)

  • Risotto is a simple dish, so one of the keys to success is to use the highest quality ingredients possible.  The stock is key, if you don’t make your own, use the highest quality stock you can find.
  • Use Carnaroli or Arborio rice, hopefully from the Po Valley (in the Piedmont)
  • Ratio: 1 ounce (weight) of raw rice to 1/2 cup of liquid

Ingredients (for 6 servings, or 4 servings plus leftovers for Risotto Fritto!)

  • 10 oz. Arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 32 oz. chicken stock
  • 1 Tbs. butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped

at the finish

  • 1 cup fresh spring peas
  • 1/4 cup sliced fresh basil
  • 2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano (use the real thing!) cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tbs. butter to finish (if desired)

Instructions
1. Start by bringing the stock up to a simmer, just under boiling.

2. Melt the butter in a pot large enough to hold your finished risotto, add the onions and cook until they are translucent, just a few minutes.  Add the rice and continue cooking until the rice becomes slightly glossy and translucent.  It will still be white in its center.  This will only take 3-4 minutes.

3. Add the white wine and stir.  Adjust the heat to keep the liquid at a gentle boil. Wait until the liquid is absorbed.

4. After the liquid is absorbed, add a ladle of stock to the rice and stir.  You don’t need to stir constantly.  Some good advice: stir every time you take a sip of wine!  In my past risotto’s I have stirred constantly.  Matt says it’s not necessary, and now I agree.

5. Continue to add stock, 1 ladle at a time, allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding another ladle.  All the stock will be absorbed in about 20-30 minutes, but you’ll want to judge by tasting the nearly finished rice.

6. Fold in spring peas and sliced basil, heat through for just a minute or two

7. Add the shredded cheese, mix in, then add the butter if desired. Serve!

Feed the risotto liquid a little at a time, then take a sip of wine.

Feed the risotto liquid a little at a time, then take a sip of wine.

The last few steps of the risotto will happen when the other items are on the grill, so you’ll need to be on your toes!  This is a great time for an assistant if you have one handy.

Folding in the spring peas & fresh basil

Folding in the spring peas & fresh basil

CSA Bok Choy and Local Farm Raised Chicken
Risotto is simple, but it is fussy and requires your attention, so I usually go very simple with the rest of the meal.  For the chicken, I just add some fresh pepper and coarse salt and it’s off to the grill.  Likewise, the Bok-Choy is just tossed in a bit of sunflower oil, then a grind of fresh pepper and a pinch of coarse salt, and grill, turning often until it looks right to you.

Risotto is a bit fussy, keep the other dinner elements simple.

Risotto is a bit fussy, keep the other dinner elements simple.

Grilling the Bok-Choy produces a vegetable with two separate flavors and textures between the stalks and the leaves.  Nice!

High quality ingredients shine with simple preparation.

High quality ingredients shine with simple preparation.

Minnesota and Piedmont ingredients melded into a tasty dinner.

Minnesota and Piedmont ingredients melded into a tasty dinner.

Risotto Fritto
Some people feel the whole reason to make risotto is for risotto fritto the next day!  I can’t choose, I like them both.  Risotto fritto is really just taking the leftover risotto, smashing it like a big pancake and heating it in a skillet until it is a nice and dark golden brown.  You don’t need to add a lot of oil, part of the fun is to let the risotto itself form that crispy crust.  I like to sprinkle it with fresh herbs once it’s on my plate.  Shown below, I also sliced leftover chicken into medallions and browned them alongside the risotto.  Serve with a nice crisp refreshing rosé!

Some people say the real reason to prepare risotto is for risotto fritto on day two.

Some people say the real reason to prepare risotto is for risotto fritto on day two.

When it comes to risotto, are you a “continously stir the risotto” chef or are you a “stir the risotto when you take a sip of wine” type?  Do you have any favorite additions?

Comments
7 Responses to “Spring Pea Basil Risotto and a Pair of Piedmont Wines”
  1. Risotto Fritto implies that you actually have leftover risotto…I will summon a bit more discipline next time I make risotto so that I may try it. Wonderful post, as always. Cheers!

  2. How was that Barbaresco? Young?

    • I don’t hesitate to open ’em young. The aromas are so fresh and vibrant. I know the tannins will be there, but the richness of the risotto balances everything out. Plus, I don’t have any older ones at this point!

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