Risotto was – just like many other famous Italian dishes – invented by poor people. The goal is to use the stuff you already have, like vegetable rests and leftovers. I very rarely shop for ingredients for risotto, so when I make one it is different every time. First of all, I search my fridge, pantry and freezer of things I can use and then I decide if I want to make a red or a white version, that is with tomatoes or without. Today, I found some chorizo and a rest of red wine, so that really screamed for a red risotto.
RISOTTO for 3 (or 2 hungry ones)
250 g mushrooms, cut into thick slices
15 cm chorizo or salciccia, diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 cup risotto rice
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
2-3 cups water
1/2 cup peas (I used frozen ones)
salt and pepper
2 olives, cut into rings
50 g / 1/2 stick butter
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
some fresh basil leaves
Heat up a wide pot (you’ll need the room to stir later), put in the olive oil and the mushrooms. Let them fry on medium-high heat until they are golden brown, then fish them out of the pot.
While the mushrooms are in the hot oil, you can cut up the chorizo as well as the onion and garlic. When you have removed the mushrooms from the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low and throw in the chorizo bits. They will render quite a bit of fat and that is perfect for sweating the onions and the garlic. Wait until the chorizo bits are much smaller and a bit crunchy, then add onion, garlic, rosemary and the bay leaf.
Stir occasionally until the onions are translucent, then add the rice. Continue stirring until the rice is covered with oil and getting a bit translucent as well. Add the tomato paste and let it fry a bit, too. This will caramelize some sugars and reduce some acids. Pour in the red wine and let it cook until it is nearly vanished. Then add 2 cups of water, the peas, the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Keep the heat on medium-low and stir every minute.
In my opinion, there’s no need for the classic (and terribly exhausting) risotto method, that consists of adding just 1/2 cup of liquid and stirring ALL THE TIME until everything almost evaporated, then adding the next batch. I get the same creamy risotto when I add all of the liquid and stir it every minute (so that it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot). Plus, much of the creamy texture comes from the starch in the round rice and the fat in the butter and Parmesan cheese.
Test the rice for doneness, if it is still hard in the center, add a little bit more water (ca. 1/2 cup) and let it cook in. Test again. It depends on so many factors how much water you will need (the water content in the rice, how wide your pot is and how much water evaporates), but I use 2 1/2 cups for 1 cup of rice as a thumb rule.
When the rice is done – that is no more hard center, but not yet mushy – add the olives, stir, then add the butter, stir until it is completely dissolved and then the cheese. Stir and let it also melt completely. Feel free to add more cheese and/or wine until you have the desired consistency and taste. Remove from the heat and then sprinkle with more cheese and some basil leaves, either whole or cut into strips.