After suffering a restaurant’s mediocre risotto and insult upon injury, its being praised excessively, I decided to make my own. I make no claims whatsoever as to its authenticity. I have never eaten in Italy outside of airports. I did have very good food on Al Italia from Milan to Kyoto. Certainly, the most important ingredient is the stock. I am willing to believe that somewhere, there are high-quality commercial stocks available, but I have neither sought nor found any. Make your own, and it can be as good as you want. It can take quite a bit of scraps or meat and vegetables, and it is not cheap, but it is good. The second next important ingredient is the rice. Arborio rice works very well. Egyptian (these parts) or sushi rice will give acceptable results, though it really is not the same dish. This recipe is with onions, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, and peas, rather complete and rich. This dish deserves and will improve from very good bacon, interesting mushrooms, and fresh peas, if available. Shallots and artichoke hearts (we can get them trimmed and fresh in season) is my favorite combination. I would like to try a recipe with beef stock.
Make stock from
1 or 2 chickens, or a couple of kilos of chicken parts
A few carrots
Some celery or a celeriac
All cut into pieces
4 liters of water or whatever is needed to cover the meat and vegetables.
Some, but not too much, salt and whole peppercorns. A bay leaf is good. Not two. Parsley, celery, and the like can impart too much flavor. More salt and flavor can be added later.
Simmer for several hours. Strain and reduce to 2 liters. It should be dense enough to gel when chilled, but it need not be consommé (though that might be good). In my experience there has not been very much fat from the chickens here, so I do not remove it.
200 gram bacon
A couple (500 g) of onions
Some (a quarter to a half cup of) olive oil
Some (50 g) butter
500 g (2 and 1/2 cup) of arborio rice
A cup or so (half bottle, 375 ml maximum) of flavorful white wine
1 liter or so of the stock
A cup and a half or so of peas, fresh or formerly frozen
400 g or more of mushrooms, sliced 4 mm thick and sautéed until just tender, juices reserved
200 gram coarsely grated Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padana.
Cut bacon into small pieces and render until crisp. Drain, reserving fat. Heat the stock to a near simmer.
Chop a couple medium onions finely into pieces not more than 4 times the length of rice grains. Fry the onions in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, using the bacon fat and olive oil. Forget that “translucent, softened” nonsense! Let them get some color, because flavor and color are concomitant . Keep the pot over a medium flame. Add the rice and fry it until it becomes opaque, adding more olive oil and the butter. Some crushed or very finely minced garlic would be fine, but be careful about the change in flavor if the garlic browns. I normally do not add garlic to this dish.
Add the wine, stir, and add simmering stock to keep the rice between damp and wet. The flame can be turned lower, but high enough to keep the rice at a simmer. Keep adding stock as the rice absorbs the liquid. Add any reserved juices from the mushrooms. Stir frequently to keep rice evenly wet. If the flame is too high, the rice can stick and scorch. Keep adding stock and stirring until the rice is nearly tender. This will take 20 to 30 minutes or more. At this point, you need to decide how you like your rice. In my family, we all like the rice between having a bite and chewy, but I like liquid all absorbed, and everyone else likes it more traditionally on the wet side. To keep it wet is easy: simply add more stock at any point. To have it be a bit dry requires the final additions of stock be more carefully: it should be finished cooking and have absorbed all the stock at the same time. Too much can be evaporated, but the rice may overlook.
Remove from the flame and stir in the cheese in batches so it disperses evenly. It will melt and blend with the wet rice. Stir in the mushrooms and peas. Add salt and pepper to taste, carefully. Spread on a platter and serve immediately.