It All Began With Risotto

Risotto, my go-to dish on a crisp day in autumn or in the depth of winter. It’s a meal that will surely leave anyone figuratively and literally satisfied. However, risotto for me symbolizes so much more. Risotto represents an epic chapter in my life: my adventures in Italy, and the moment my culinary journey began.

In the Fall of 2008, I left Toronto, Canada and ventured off to expand my horizons by teaching English at a language school in north Italy, in a town called Arona on the shores of Lake Maggiore. When I stepped foot on that plane was, without a doubt, the moment my life changed forever. Life as I knew it would never be the same. There is an Italian saying, “Ho trovato l’America” which basically means “I’ve discovered America” or in other words “I’ve found my dream.” However, when I look back upon my Italian experience, I can truly say wholeheartedly “Ho trovato l’Italia“!

While in Italy, I faced many challenges. I had embarked on the journey alone, not knowing anyone on the other side, not being able to speak the language, starting my very first teaching job in a foreign country. However, with time, I learned that all of these challenges would eventually give birth to many opportunities. I learned how to speak Italian, gained an abundance of work and life experience, made some of the greatest friendships that I still hold close to my heart today and most importantly, met and married my love (not all necessarily in that order😉).

Somewhere in between all that, I fell passionately in love with the culinary arts. It isn’t a difficult thing to do in Italy. The culture revolves around food and the art of dining. The family that eats together, stays together! It is such an important part of one’s day. What are we going to eat? Where? And with whom? And so much pleasure is taken in this quite ordinary act that it becomes, well, quite extraordinary.

During my first year in Italy, I had the pleasure of meeting a girl, Elisa, who quickly became my good friend. She was one of the only people who I had met that could speak rather good English, but beyond that, she was so down to Earth, so fun-loving and just a pleasure to be around. Elisa gifted me with the recipe for her nonna’s risotto. She came to my little one bedroom apartment up the cobblestone street, brought all her ingredients, and step-by-step taught me how to prepare a proper Italian risotto.

It was one of the best gifts anyone has ever given me.

From that moment, I became obsessed. I wanted to make risotto everyday. All sorts of risottos. Mushroom risotto, champagne risotto, blueberry risotto, risotto forever! And once I mastered risotto, I moved on to other Italian specialties. And so my culinary journey began and my journey continues to this day.

Today, I’m sharing Elisa’s risotto with you.

Risotto al Rosmarino

img_0512

Ingredients (serving 4):

  • 6-8 cups of broth (you could use chicken or beef stock or even vegetable)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 fist fulls of Arborio rice/person (Elisa always said to add an extra fist or two for those who want seconds!)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 1/2 a medium-size onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese (and don’t use that crappy powdery processed stuff! It HAS to be REAL ITALIAN PARMIGIANO REGGIANO OR GRANA!!)
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary sprig, finely chopped

 

Step 1:

img_0516

Heat up your broth in a pot and keep it on the heat for the duration of your cooking. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan and sauté your onions until they are translucent.

Step 2:

img_0518

Add the rice to the pan and sauté until all the rice has been completely coated by the olive oil. Then add the wine. Take a sip of the wine to make sure it tastes good (insert evil laugh). Now begin to slowly transport the broth from the pot to the pan, one ladel at a time. After each ladel, stir the rice, wait until the broth has been evaporated by the rice before adding another ladel. Stir the rice constantly with a wooden spoon. Continue this process (ladel, stir, evaporate, ladel, stir, evaporate, etc.) until the rice is nearly cooked (taste it to test it).

Step 3:

img_0520

As you can see in the photo, there is now an extra pan. If you have a picky eater at home like my daughter Chloe, this would be a good time to scoop some out and put it in a separate pan. Otherwise, just continue by stirring in the rosemary (or if you don’t like rosemary, just leave it out completely. It tastes just as good without it).

Step 4:

img_0521

Once the rice is al dente (firm to the bite), turn off the heat. Stir in the butter and the parmesan. E voila!!! Risotto al rosmarino! Buon appetite!