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Strawberry Risotto

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Serious risotto from the king of modern Italian cookbooks - Il Cucchiaio d'argento. It contains strawberries for a surprising but successful and now well established match.

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Rice is born in water and dies in wine as the Italian say. And for sure most Italian rice finishes in a bubbling pool of wine. Risotto is the favorite way of eating rice in Italy, especially in the North. There are so many different risotto recipe that one could have the impression you can add just about anything to the rice and call it risotto.

And yet, when Marina told me about strawberry risotto, I was quite surprised. "I make the risotto with the strawberry that you won't know it's in there" she said with her wonderful Italian accent. Marina has been my mom's best friend for 20 years and she is a walking encyclopedia of Italian culinary lore. I've been eating her dishes and cooking with her recipes most of my life. She never failed to deliver. Thus I decided to try and make this intriguing dish.

Risotto is a foolprool gourmet dish anybody can cook in under 30 minutes, provided you follow the instructions.

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Strawberry Risotto
Risotto con le fragole [reezauto conlay frahgawlay]
As a first course for 6
2 tbsp butter
1 small white onion cut in tiny cubes
1 cup risotto rice
1 glass dry white wine
4 cups broth
4-8 strawberries
100 gr freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter or 2 tbsp heavy cream or 2 tbsp mascarpone

You need risotto rice. Italian chefs are very particular about which specific type of risotto rice they use for a given recipe. But if you are starting out with Italian cooking, just use any rice with 'risotto' on the box. Do not use pre-cooked or pre-seasoned risotto mixes. Do not wash the rice - it needs to be dry when it goes into the pot. We are not making pulao where you want each rice grain to be free and not stick to the others. Risotto is about rice grains sticking together and the little rice flour on the grains' surface is a desirable feature.

You also need hot broth. Not cold water. Not cold water with a broth cube. But a saucepan of piping hot broth. If you don't have the time you can very well heat up 1 liter / 4 cups tap water in a saucepan and add a broth cube. But it needs to be hot before you start.

Just before serving, risotto is mixed with additional milk fat - most commonly butter, but some people use heavy cream or mascarpone. Then a little grated parmesan add a final layer of flavor.

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Wash and stem your strawberries, then crush half of them to a pulp in a mortar. Reserve a handful of the best looking strawberries for decor.

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All risottos start with very finely diced white onion gently fried in butter. Do not let the onions nor the butter turn brown - you want medium-high heat, not high. You just need your onion to be become soft and the water to evaporate.

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Pour the dry rice into the frying onions and butter.

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Fry it for 1-2 minutes. Every grain must be covered with a little butter.

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Pour in a glass of white wine. Some people use red wine but that will raise an eyebrow and change the risotto's color. Let the wine boil and reduce. Mix well so that no rice sticks to the bottom.

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Keep the stock pot next to the risotto pot and use a ladle. Cooking with the proper tools is very pleasant and if you can afford to browse the Internet, you can afford a ladle too.

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Pour two ladlefuls of stock into the rice.

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Mix well to prevent the risotto from sticking and help the stock to spread evenly across the rice.

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Continue to mix over medium-high heat until the mixture is almost dry. No liquid should be visible before you put the next ladlefuls of broth in.

Turn constantly until the second ladlefuls has evaporated too. Some of it will be absorbed by the rice which will become softer and inflate more and more as the process continues.

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On the fourth ladlefuls of stock add the strawberry purée.

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Mix well.

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The strawberries will disappear into the risotto will turn dirty pink. Continue to add the hot stock ladleful by ladleful until the rice is cooked but still crunchy. Proper risotto has some bite and the rice will continue to soften for at least 5 minutes after you turn off the heat.

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Now for the most crucial stage called mantecatura [mantehkatuoorah] by Italian chefs. We mix tasty milk fat in the risotto just before serving. Turn the heat off and take the pot off the stove unless it is gas-powered. If you don't do this, the heat will make your butter split. Let the risotto rest for 1 minute off the stove and add the cold butter cut into small pieces or the heavy cream or mascarpone. Mix it in vigorously taking care not to crush the grains. If you put a large piece of butter into a boiling risotto, the part of the butter that touches the rice will split into water and fat and you'll have an uneven mix with patches of butter fat all over the dish. Butter, cream and mascarpone are all water-fat emulsions which we need to be assimilated into the dish as an emulsion.

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Finally the grated Parmesan is added and mixed in.

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You can serve with thinly-sliced strawberries on top or omit them altogether. It is a hard decision to make. If you put the strawberries on top, most guests will be surprised and think this is some prank or that you are training to become a chef in Hawai. And if you don't use them, nobody will guess unless you tell them what's inside. Will you resist the temptation of telling? If you tell, you are back to square one with the added aggravation that people now think you tricked them and wonder what will come next - Olive Squirrel or Rat Couscous perhaps? Really difficult.

Buy the cookbook on AmazonI go for full disclosure with a little strawberry on top and my impressive copy of the huge culinary tome Il Cuchiaio d'argento in the original Italian edition left conspicuously open as a shield against any suspicion of fanciness. It is now available in English as The Silver Spoon on Amazon.com

The process is the same for any risotto recipe, with or without strawberries. Replace the strawberries with saffron and you'll have risotto alla milanese.

Published 21/08/2007
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14 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Hannah
  • on: 22/08/2007
Oh my goodness! I cannot wait to try this one. Strawberries are still (barely) in season where I live. This will be a perfect change of pace.As always, your photos are beautiful. I love the contrasting blue plate and red strawberries.
  • #2
  • Comment by Denis Johnston
  • on: 23/08/2007
I read your blog from time to time and for the most part enjoy your writings, however I must make my point here…I am a CEC (certified executive chef) living in Hawaii, trained in Paris, extern in Antibes @ La Bonne Auberge and we don't train to make risotto, we know how to make risotto.When this is done we do not mix like a mad man as it would break up the delicate grains of rice and we never add cream, as this is the lazy cooks way to make a risotto.The natural starch would become evident from the 20 minutes of stirring the rice and then become creamy without the cream. A true aficionado would never add butter; just good cold pressed olive oil...  Merci.
  • #3
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 24/08/2007
Denis thank you for your visit! Butter is the most common fat used for mantecatura all over the north of Italy and olive oil is quite out of the ordinary for risotto and does add a strong taste of its own. I'm sure it works fine in some risottos but generally speaking you'd need something with a more neutral flavor. By cream I meant the heaviest of Swiss creams, Crême de Gruyère, that is so thick you can actually stick a spoon in it and it stays up. Outside Switzerland you'd need to use Mascarpone or butter. As for mixing like crazy, you are right that this could break up the grains, but the risotto has to be cooked al dente and if you don't mix very quickly, the butter might break.
  • #4
  • Comment by Mansi
  • on: 28/08/2007
HI, first time on your blog! I love strawberries, maybe should try this risotto recipe sometime!-Mansi
  • #5
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
  • on: 12/09/2007
hi FX, the risotto looks great and I want to try it, but assuming only fresh ingredients are kosher, is there any fruit I can substitute for the strawberries? (The only very-sweet-with-a-sour-note fruit I can think of is an Alphonso mango.) Though the point of the dish may be lost somewhat, the reason for the forcible substitution will be the lack of suitable frsh strawberries in a hot country like mine. They are available, but they taste like, well, French-farmed Mangoes would :-). I can find branded Italian risotto rice (hidden behind the giant basmati bags) in the local supermart, but no Euro-strawberries. Incidentally, unlike a pro like Denis, I'm ok with the butter/cream and not the muscle-work to release the starch because a)all mothers and by extension their friends are beyond judgement and so are their recipes and b) the fat in my view holds the grains better together for a pulao-eater than mixing it too much.
Yesterday night I cooked this for Dutch and Korean friends that are somewhat familiar with Italian cuisine - but nobody had ever eaten risotto with strawberries! I used vegetable broth and 1/2 kg of strawberries (for something like 400 grams of rice). The result was very delicate, with a definite strawberry flavor. Excellent! I was a bit worried myself, since I am a rather traditional cook, but I was pleasantly surprised.

As a second course I did your "Quails in Rosemary, Garlic and Red Wine Sauce", but since Quails were not available I substituted, shame on me, chicken breasts split into three parts, and I accompanied it with "Sicilian Drowned Broccoli". Again, the guests loved it and had many questions as to the source of these fantastic recipes :-)
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/07/2008
Walter, I am much honored for this all-FXcuisine meal and very relieved that your guests like it! The main ingredient in the Quail recipe is the rosemary, sometimes I buy rosemary from 3 suppliers to be sure I get one that has this special smell. I grow my own but it is a hardiness-before-taste compromise. The strawberry risotto is very original but definitely part of contemporary Italian cuisine - but you need open-minded guests.
  • #8
  • Comment by Marjan
  • on: 27/02/2009
Hi,
I came across your site by pure chance, looking for recipes (almighty internet). One of the best sites I visited, a friend of mine called it: An Ode to Civilization.
Now back to your recipe.
Intrigued by this unusual combination of ingredients, I searched the Net for this recipe and came across a variation that soaks strawberries in white wine overnight and then using the same wine when first ladle of liquid is added to risotto.
I can only imagine how much would profumo of wild strawberries add to this creation.


  • FX's answer→ Yes if you used really ripe wild strawberries that would be some dish!

  • #10
  • Comment by Dimitris Papazimouris
  • on: 01/04/2009
THANKS!!!...THANKS  A LOT!!!
Tried your recipe tonight with a very special guest and it worked perfectly!
Nevertheless I have to admit that I put almost double the amount of pulped strawberries than what you suggest, and it worked perfectly... Also I plan for next time to add at least 4-6 sliced strawberries in the mixture... just a couple of minutes before the mantecatura.  I think that as long as you balance the sweetness and taste sophistication of the strawberries with the earthiness of Parmesan, and finish everything by marrying the risotto with mascarpone, the whole thing works perfectly! Thanks again... this is definitely becoming one of my favorite recipes...
  • FX's answer→ Glad it worked for you Dimitris!

  • #12
  • Comment by Emma
  • on: 20/04/2009
Muy bien hecha la receta, es un risotto que se comenzò hacer mucho en los años 70's, soy italiana, no vivo de momento allì pero voy de viaje a menudo a la ''bota'' por tener mis raices y familia y les dirè que ya no hay restaurante que ofrezcan este risotto, y es excelente mientras se mantengan bien las proporciones y se utilizen sòlo ingredientes de primerìsima calidad, como lo son el arroz tipo arborio o carneroli, un excelente caldo de pollo concentrado, mantequilla y parmesano reggiano (o en su falta un buen grana padano..) freschìsimos para la mantecatura...y que decir de las fresas que deben ser escogidas maduras y aromàticas.  Muchas gracias por exponer las recetas italianas en su originalidad.
  • #13
  • Comment by Aurelien
  • on: 01/01/2010
Bonjour, FX -

Today, I modified your recipe, using blackberries (mûres) instead of strawberries; it was brilliant! This is the 10th recipe posted here that I've tried, and all were successes. Thank you so much!

Au
  • FX's answer→ Aurelien, I am very glad to hear that! I actually hard forgotten about this recipe. Please do try the pumpkin risotto with amaretti, this one is straight from Heaven!


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