a brown bowl with a single portion of a cheese risotto, next to a small cup of red wine

Riso Alla Italiana

Piglia una pignata he mettice brodo grasso he magro he fa bulliare; he poi piglia lo riso bene nettato he piu volte lavato cum aqua tepida, he metello dentro he fa bulire menando cum lo cughiaro alcuna volta che non se apichi alla pignata, poi, quando serra cotto, piglia ove he caso gratato, sbatuto ogni cosa insieme, cum uno pocho di pipere; poi fa le scutelle

 Rice the Italian Way

 Put fat broth and lean in a pot, boil it

Get clean rice, rinse it well in tepid water

Put the rice in, and boil it. Stir so it does not stick.
When it is cooked, add eggs and grated cheese, beat it all together, add pepper, and serve in bowls.

(there may be spelling and transcription errors, my computer is having unrest related to the spellings included)

 

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Medieval style cooking makes a whole lot of broth. Poaching most meats, and separately, a lot of veg, makes a lot of liquor, broth, stock, and aspic. It also consumes a lot of broth. Fat broth, lean broth, lenten broth, almond milk made in broth, it does get used.

It’s kind of an enriched risotto. I chose a medium grain rice, as I find short grain rice generally wants more tending than just a “couple of turns of the spoon” to keep it from locking up. The starches behave quite differently between the two types of rice. If you have the time and attention to give a short grain rice, please do try it. It can’t easily go wrong.

The note to rinse the rice was a happy one. Some modern rices are packaged to be starchy, others are chalky. Rinsing clears the grains of dust, and starts it plumping. It also gives me a few moments to more easily find any stones or not-food that may have found its way into the bag. I am always happier to do so.

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My broth was some fat beef broth that resulted from a recent dish, and some chicken broth which was in the freezer. I left the fat on the beef broth, specifically because it called for “fat.” This dish relies on tasty broth. While I used meat broths, a quality vegetable broth would go very well here. I would strongly suggest adding some (maybe 2 Tbs) butter or oil in that case, as the rice benefits from a bit of oil for texture. I also have had excellent luck with a specific vegan bouillon cube, Rapunzel. (not saying other brands are bad, just that this one, I find to be good.)

After cooking the rice fully, I took it off the heat, as my dinner got delayed an hour. When my dinner companion arrived, I beat the egg and cheese together well, then folded them into the rice, and stirred while reheating. Then I got clever and put it in a low oven. This worked perfectly well, and the resulting dish was lush, rich without being over the top. In fact, I was glad to let the rice cool before adding the egg, as it did not clump or scramble in the dish.

 

If you are cooking for immunocompromised people, it may be wise to use pasteurised eggs. The eggs are cooked but cannot be checked for done-ness.

The salt in the cheese was sufficient for our preferences, we added none during cooking or at the table.
This dish is far less fiddly than risotto, and can be made from simple cooked rice into the enriched dish reasonably easily, but it is a small-batch dish, as the seasonings are unlikely to scale up well. It’s classic comfort food.

 

For two as a main, four as a side;

1 ½ cups medium grain rice

2 ½ cups broth, strained

2-3 TBS fat from broth, or mild fat such as chicken or unsalted butter

3 eggs

5 oz parmesan, asiago, or other hard Italian type “storing” cheese, grated or shredded (it will melt)

not from the can, just plain cheese.

¼ up to 1 tsp ground black pepper, to taste

no salt

Using a stockpot that is easy to fully scrape, warm the broth and fat.

Rinse the rice in water til it runs clear. I do this in a bowl with the rice in a strainer, and pick over the rice for purity as I go.

Cook the rice til it is perfect, to your taste. Be prepared to add more liquid, as rice is thirsty and somewhat unpredictable, about 20-25 minutes.

Beat the eggs, then add the cheese and pepper to the egg mixture. Beat well together, til almost fluffy.

Fold the egg mixture into the rice and beat thoroughly together. If you are concerned about the eggs scrambling, remove from heat and allow to cool briefly.

Heat gently til cheese is fully melted. The egg won’t be visible to see that they are cooked.

Taste for salt and pepper, adjust, and serve. It’s lovely with a dense piece of grilled fish, or alongside a seasonal salad.

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