Recipe of the Week #6: Tomato Mozzarella Risotto

Risotto is a hearty, versatile dish with strong ties to Italian rice history. The Arabs actually introduced rice to Italy in the middle ages and it was quickly discovered that the Mediterranean climate was perfect for growing due to the humidity. The popularity spread through Italy, particularly to the wealthy, but, when word got out about the great quality of this Italian product, profits poured in and it became far more accessible to everyone. Milan had been under Spanish rule for almost two centuries and rice had become a staple along with slow-cooking. The slow-cooking techniques were combined with the local rice and spices common to the area and gave birth to the delicious, creamy risotto we know today.

Risotto is still built around the same core components as it was centuries ago: rice, stock (usually chicken), onions, butter, wine, parmesan and saffron.
The constant adding and stirring of ingredients may seem time-consuming but, your final product will be totally worth it.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped leek
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or other medium-grain rice
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 5 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, finely diced

Preparation

  1. Place vinegar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until slightly syrupy and reduced to 1 tablespoon (about 4 minutes). Set aside.
  2. Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leek to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Add rice; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in wine, and cook 1 minute or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 cup broth; cook 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Stir in half-and-half, salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in tomatoes, basil, and cheese. Place about 1 cup risotto into each of 6 shallow serving bowls; drizzle each serving with 1/2 teaspoon balsamic syrup and 1/2 teaspoon oil.

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