I’m in Naples right now, in my home town to spend the Easter holidays among familiars. Weather and family time are not the only reasons for me to be happy to be back, as you can imagine food is a big part of my life and I’m now more than excited to taste Italian tomatoes, mozzarella, Neapolitan pizza, wine…. It’s my second day here but I might have already tried all these ingredients.
A couple of days before leaving for Italy I made a risotto that probably here in Italy wouldn’t be accepted as such. Let me explain you why.
Widespread in numerous versions throughout the country, Risotto for us southerners is not as popular and appealing as in north of Italy. We are huge “pastasciuttari”, a familiar term for pasta lover, in dialect. Sure, we cook rice every now and then. “Someone” told us that it wouldn’t be good for us to eat “white” pasta every day, that whole grain rice are better sources of complex carbs, B vitamins, minerals and above all fiber. Although we don’t take these nutritious facts too seriously, we take a few breaks from pasta (a few in a year, I mean).
Nothing more than the normal rice deprived of its skins (husk), whole rice, also know as brown rice because of the color, is far more nutritious than the white one. It is rich in fiber, first of all, which in refined white rice disappears completely. It’s detoxifying, slightly laxative, gluten-free, highly digestible and with a good amount of minerals (lowered by almost 70% in refined white rice).
Brown rice is great in terms of nutritional value but honestly not the best type of rice to make a classic Italian risotto. In a typical risotto the starch from the rice is released during the cooking to create a sort of a gel that binds the grains together and provides a creamy texture to the dish.I pre-heated (roasted) the rice in a pan with butter and onion and gradually added the liquid (broth) to keep a constant moisture balance. Just like for a classic risotto. However, my brown rice did not released its starch and I came up with a risotto-non-risotto, not creamy but rather “crunchy”, instead.
Saffron turned its brown into a beautiful vibrant gold, the reasonable amount of butter instead of olive made it flavorful and robust. A beautiful dish, different but beautiful and delectable. My way to lay the groundwork for the coming pasta and pizza days.
I’m now ready to dive into a sea of chocolate eggs and Italian cheeses. I got to honor family traditions :).
What are you up for to celebrate the Easter holidays?
Brown Rice Saffron Risotto
- 1 medium onion very finely chopped
- 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 cup arborio vialone nano, or carnaroli rice, or other medium- or short-grain Italian rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 6 cups vegetable broth; more as needed
- 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
- 1 cup finely grated parmesan preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Parsley chopped (optional).
- In a saucepan cook the onion in 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the rice and cook it over medium heat for a couple oof minutes. Add the wine, 2 cups of broth, and the saffron. Turn the heat to high until the broth comes to a simmer.
- Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring every 3-4 minutes. Place the saffron in a cup and pour the warm broth in it. Stir and wait 2 minutes. Add this cup of "saffron broth" to the rice and keep cooking, stirring. Add the rest of broth and cook until the rice is cooked.The risotto must be fairly tight, not soupy.
- When the rice is ready, stir in the cheese. Off the heat, stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with more Parmesan and parsley.