Valentine’s Day is around the corner and if you’re like me you’d probably rather cook a nice romantic dinner at home than go out for dinner. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if you’re here reading this I’d say cooking is your thing. I’ve got a good story about red wine risotto too. One which I think fits in well with the whole romantic theme of the coming weekend.
Wayyyyy back in 2007 right before Cheryl went away to business school we took our first vacation together to Italy. She was in Europe ahead of me traveling with her family so we made plans to meet in in Milan before taking a train up to Lake Como. Romantic, no? Cheryl had never been to Italy so this was my chance to show her why I thought it was a great place to vacation. We ate really well in Milan and I felt she was starting to see things my way when she commented about the waiters being much friendlier in Italy than France, where she had just come from.
[Side Roam: Now I’m not saying French waiters have attitudes but they do have a reputation! That said, we’ve actually had very pleasant and patient servers whenever we’ve been in Paris and have found if you put in some effort and aren’t a jerk, they’ll do the same. Example, we ducked into a small café late one afternoon where no one spoke any English (allegedly) and they were preparing for dinner service. All we wanted was a glass of wine and some cheese and they happily obliged. A few minutes later a much larger group of English-speaking tourists rolled in, sat down, and wanted menus for a full meal. They were, shall we say, discouraged from this and left. As we sat at the bar quietly sipping our wine the bartender looked at us and made a ‘can you believe that? asking for dinner and we’re obviously not ready yet!’ gesture to us like we were old pals. Great memory. Ok, now back to Italy.]
Of course, our first full day in Como she saw another side of Italy: the random general strike. This prevented us from going anywhere since the ferries, busses, and the funiculare weren’t running. Stuck in Como we walked around and for lunch stopped in a small place next to the lake. I had some local fish and Cheryl ordered risotto. Not any risotto, a Barolo risotto. Red wine risotto. See how this all ties in? To say it was delicious is an understatement. She loved it and I am pretty sure to this day it is one of her favorite food memories of Italy. Mostly because of the company, right?
Anyway, I was leafing through Michael White’s Classico e Moderno and saw a red wine risotto recipe which reminded me of this first Italy trip together. Mine definitely did not turn out as red as his, despite using more wine than his called for. Perhaps I should have finished the risotto with a splash for color, turned out much more pink than red. Also probably because I used some brown duck stock which I doubt helped the color. Oh and added some pancetta and radicchio. I figured the radicchio would give some nice fleck of red. Which it does.
So while this is good for any night of the week or time of year it can work great for you on Valentine’s Day. You know, cause it’s pink and red. It wasn’t as good as that Barolo risotto almost 9 years ago (wow, time flies) but Cheryl still enjoyed this recipe and went back for seconds. Me too.
Red Wine Risotto with Pancetta and Radicchio (4 servings)
- 3 Tbs butter
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 C red wine
- 1 large shallot, diced
- ¾ C diced pancetta
- 2 C Arborio or carnaroli rice
- 6 C stock or water
- 1 C grated parmesan cheese
- ½ C shredded radicchio
In a sauce pot heat up your stock to a simmer.
In a large sauté pan heat the oil and 2 Tbs butter over medium-high heat. When butter has melted add the shallots and pancetta. Sauté for 5 minutes or until shallots are soft.
Next, mix in the rice. Cook until grains become translucent.
Pour in the wine and stir until it is all absorbed by the rice.
Next, add 1 C of stock and stir until the liquid is soaked up. Add another C and do the same. Once it begins to take longer for the stock to be absorbed cut back to ½ C at a time and then keep adding stock until your risotto is just tender with a little bit of firmness remaining. At this point I think you can add a ¼ – ½ C of red wine to put some more red color in which will ‘stick’ and not fade. You don’t have to, it’s still delicious.
When risotto is cooked and there’s still some liquid left, stir in the cheese, radicchio, and the last Tbs of butter. If it’s not creamy enough add a little bit of water and stir.