Have I ever written a recipe from my region (in Italy)? Well, it is never too late to start! The food from my region is not striking, nothing very fancy nor very prelibate, but it is with no doubt very good. I have yet to find a region of Italy that doesn’t have good traditional food, so, the Veneto region is no exception. When I think of traditional food from my region risi e bisi comes to mind (risotto with sweet peas), baccalà mantecato (a spread of salted cod), polenta coi osei (polenta with “little birds”)… more of a home cooking style, it doesn’t make me think of particular delicacies.
Last night I decided to spice up the usual risotto with dried porcini mushrooms by making the traditional recipe Risotto ai funghi e salsiccia, risotto with mushrooms and sausage. It turned out very tasty, and not much more trouble to make than the original mushroom risotto. I will certainly make it again.
Did you see the word risotto and got scared? Don’t be! To make a good risotto there are only few steps to follow, and no, you don’t need to stir it continuously! It is very important to use rice for risotto, the thick grains will take a longer time to cook and will release a lot of starch while cooking. Do not rinse the rise when making risotto!!
Steps for a good risotto:
- Toast the rice: usually you start by sautéing some onion, I prefer to use butter rather than olive oil for this step. Then you add the rice and toast it, stirring, for a couple of minutes. This way the first flavor that the rice will absorb will be strong.
- Cook the rice: keep a saucepan of boiling water (or better broth) on hand and always add boiling water to the risotto. Never use cold water! Add two ladlefuls of water to start cooking and then add a ladleful when needed. Every once in a while stir energetically, this releases the starch from the rice giving to your risotto the proper creamy texture and also helps you check if it’s time to add water/broth.
- Mantecature: when the rice is done (use the cooking time on the box for reference but also try the rice) remove the pot from the heat, add butter and parmesan, stir well. This step is called mantecatura.
And now on to mushroom and sausage risotto, a recipe from the Veneto region of Italy. The following quantities make 2 portions.
- 15 gr dried porcini
- about 1 liter water or broth
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 sausage
- 160 gr risotto rice
- 1/2 glass white wine
- vegetable bouillon when using water instead of broth
- 1 tbs chopped parsley
- 1 tbs butter
- 4 tbs grated parmesan cheese
Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for 1 hours (or according to directions on the package).
Bring to a boil a saucepan of water or broth.
Pour the olive oil in a pot and add the sausage, in small pieces, external skin removed. Cook the sausage and when browned remove from the pot and set aside. Leave on the pot the fat and olive oil, you will use it to toast the rice.
Pour the rice and toast it for a couple of minutes (Picture 1).
Add the wine and simmer until evaporated.
Add 2 ladlefuls of water/broth, the bouillon if using water (Picture 2). Cook, occasionally stirring vigorously. Start the cooking time when you add the water/broth.
Add one ladleful of water/broth when needed (Picture 3, time to add more water and stir well).
Halfway in the cooking process add the sausage and the mushrooms drained.
Careful not to add too much liquid toward the end of the cooking process or you will need to overcook the rice in order to let it evaporate.
A couple of minutes before the end add the chopped parsley.
When the rice is tender (and the final water has evaporated, Picture 4) remove the pot from the heat, add butter and parmesan, stir to combine.