I have not made a Risotto al Radicchio Rosso for a long time.
So, why now?
First of all, I had some red Radicchio in the fridge. It is more or less a regular staple which I use mainly for salads. However, I do enjoy it cooked as well .
Secondly, I had some freshly made chicken broth. I received an email from my brother who lives in Adelaide beginning with:
I read that your lockdown has been extended for another 7 days.
I am so sorry. There is not much that one can say to provide comfort.
So, I wrote back an email beginning with:
You could make me a good chicken broth and send it over… broth always fixes things.
And with that, I took my own advice and made some chicken broth for myself.
Thirdly, a friend left a jar of Radicchio sotto aceto pickles on my doorstep – it literally translates as radicchio under vinegar. This revived my interest in the versatility of radicchio.
We ate some of the radicchio pickle with the boiled chicken and it was all very good. As I often do, I then boiled the bones from the cooked chicken to make some more stock which I added to the left-over broth and stored it in the freezer. P.S. Using cooked chicken bones to make stock, is not an Italian thing.
Although I am very familiar with how to make Risotto di Radicchio (or Risotto al radicchio rosso), I wanted to tap into my bookshelves to see what recipes I had. Radicchio grows in Northern Italy and the recipes are Northern Italian.
I found recipes by Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer (remember that they both spent time in Tuscany), Sky Mc Alpine (with a nice addition of gorgonzola), Tessa Kiros, Jamie Oliver, Jennifer Mc Lagan (Jennifer sweetens the risotto with pumpkin), Diana Henry (she adds borlotti; radicchio and borlotti go well together and I have cooked many dishes with these two ingredients), Marcella Hazan (very traditional and simple), Jacob Kennedy (Barolo and bone marrow), Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Charles Nardozzi (he added pink grapefruit).Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, who is closer to the origins of risotto and radicchio, adds bacon. This is acceptable as her birth place is close to Trieste in Pola, just before the city was assigned to Yugoslavia in September 1947.
I particularly liked Risotto with red wine in Joanne Weir’s : From Tapas to Meze. She specifies the wine – Amarone from Veneto or Barolo from Piedmont – and adds some radicchio. She also adds nutmeg. Radicchio is bitter, nutmeg adds sweetness, which I think is a good addition, much like Jennifer Mc Lagan’s in Bitter where she suggests adding pumpkin to the risotto, also a sweetener.
There were other recipes in some of my cookery books written in Italian, all very simple and traditional recipes and using mostly white wine. There were also a few recipes for Risotto Rosso or Risotto all’ Amarone . None of the red wine recipes included radicchio.
Amarone is a full-bodied wine that tastes rich and fruity. Barolo is more floral and earthy, but both are strong tasting wines with a high alcohol content. I was interested to read on the web that both wines go well with dark chocolate, a bitter taste.
In the end my preferred recipe was one by Julia Della Croce in Veneto – Authentic recipes from Venice and Italian Northeast.
Did I vary the recipe?
I never weigh ingredients and I always vary recipes to suit my tastes. I did not vary from Julia Della Croce list of ingredients very much and maybe this is why I liked her recipe. The ingredients I have at home is also a factor. For example, I can see how red onions would add to the colour, but I only had white onions.
I added nutmeg; used a white onion instead of a red one; red wine instead of white, and used more than a 1/2 cup; added thyme and bay leaves. I only used 1/2 a large radicchio. I thought that the walnuts were a good addition as once again, they provide a contrast to the bitterness of the radicchio.
I did vary the process slightly, but only slightly. This is what I did:
I sautéed the onion and garlic in the oil and butter, then added the radicchio and removed it once it was softened.
I toasted the rice in butter and oil.
Once the rice was toasted, I added seasoning , the red wine and some stock. Once the liquid was evaporated I returned the radicchio to the pan with a couple of bay leaves and thyme.
I continued to cook the risotto by adding stock a couple of ladles at the time and stirring it until the rice was ready… loose… ie cooked all’onda (like waves, not dry and gluggy).
When the rice was cooked, I added freshly ground nutmeg , dished it out, sprinkled a few walnuts and grated some Parmigiano Reggiano on top and ate it.
This is the photo (below) as used in the book. My photo (above) did not do the dish justice! Come to think of it, this photo doesn’t either. It is over decorated … I see walnuts, but it is hard to see the riso.
There are other recipes with cooked radicchio on the blog and I can assure you they are good combinations or radicchio and other ingredients.