Porcini and Shiitake Mushrooms Risotto

Rice is definitely not an Italian discovery, but Risotto is for sure an Italian invention.

I’m talking about the creamy, buttery dish typical from Northern Italy, made in dozens of different ways but always with a very specific procedure. Risotto as such has been around since the early XIXth century, even though rice was introduced to Italy and specifically to Naples by the Spaniards in the XVIth century. In Naples it did not acquire a stronghold but travelled north where the humid and rainier climate of the Pianura Padana – the vast plain along the Po river – constituted a perfect setting for the cultivation of rice, which requires a lot of water.

The rice varieties cultivated in Italy are very specific, and authentic Risotto can be made preferably with the small to medium grain Carnaroli, Arborio, Vialone Nano, and Baldo. Those are round and plump grains of rice, all of them with one specific and precious characteristic: high level of starch in the grain. And this is absolutely essential to get that rich and creamy dish: the starch is released during the cooking process, particularly in the stirring phase.

There are also clear differences among those varieties: I personally prefer to use Carnaroli as it stays very al dente in the center of the grain. So, it keeps its bite throughout the cooking process. Arborio to my taste becomes very mellow, so I suggest using it when you really want a super creamy result, for example if you make a risotto with gorgonzola cheese or with butternut squash.

It might look intimidating to prepare a Risotto, but believe me once you have the basic rules down, it is a no brainer. Do not trust people who tell you that it takes an hour of stirring to make a great Risotto: they are missing a few basic rules that I will reveal to you. If it takes more than 20 minutes, then there is a problem! I was reading that it was fashionable for the Milanese aristocracy to serve risotto at midnight during a party: I think we should all reinstate this beautiful habit, as there is nothing more comforting than a steaming dish of Risotto. You will impress your guests, once more.

The version we are preparing today is with mushrooms: I like to boost the white rice with vegetables. When you add the butter and parmigiano, it will become a nutritious meal all by itself!


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For 4 Servings

1 cup Carnaroli rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons of EV Olive Oil
½ glass of white table wine
1 pint chicken stock preprepared (or vegetable stock)
1 cup rinsed blueberries
1 cup roasted chestnuts or more, chopped in big pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons gorgonzola cheese (optional)