Hi guys! I’m baaack!
I had to take a pause from posting every other day because I’ve been not only dealing with my painful herniated disc, but have also been fighting an annoying cold the last few days. It’s been really hot in NYC during the last week or so and there’s nothing more uncomfortable than having a cold when it’s hot outside. It’s not like I could make a stew to nurse me back to health… :( So I decided to make something that was comforting but summery at the same time: Fresh Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Arugula Risotto!
Risottos are the nemesis of many home cooks. I still remember this blue cheese risotto I tried making a few years ago that ended up being a dry goop of rice and blue cheese. I served it to a friend and she was nice enough to finish what was on her plate, but didn’t go for seconds. (And people going for seconds is how I know if a dish worked or not…) I’ve even had risottos at restaurants that just weren’t right. However, when they are made right, they are a great and sophisticated dish perfect for a date or for dinner parties.
A perfect risotto, in my opinion, is creamy without being dry or too liquidy. The arborio rice is cooked until it’s al dente because if the rice overcooks, you’ll have a mushy risotto. So yes, it requires some attention. It’s not the type of dish that you leave cooking and go clean the bathroom or check on Facebook, for example. But once you get the hang of it, it is not that big, bad monster that terrifies you anymore.
Risottos are traditionally a North Italian dish. It’s a rice dish that consists of rice cooked in broth (vegetable, chicken, beef, fish…Any broth is fair game!) to a creamy consistency. In Italy they use a variety of high starch white rices, such as Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, Padano, Roma and Vialone Nano. In America we usually use the Arborio kind because it’s usually the easy one to find. I have never cooked risotto with any other type of rice, but now I’m kinda planning a trip to a NYC Italian emporium to see if I can find different kinds to try and let you know! :) Apparently, the Maratelli, the Carnaroli and the Vialone Nano are considered the best! (I can’t testify for that, though, as I haven’t tried them, yet!)
God, these tomatoes look so perfect! I couldn’t resist when I saw them at the grocery store and ended up buying two packages. That’s when I had the idea of making a risotto with these tomatoes, plus fresh mozzarella and arugula. It’s like these ingredients were all made for each other!
The recipe for any risotto starts with the risotto base. You make a sofritto of onion (I used shallots cause they are more delicate) and some olive oil (or butter) and cook the arborio rice in this sofritto for a few minutes until all the rice is coated in a film of fat, called tostatura.
After you fry the rice and the sofritto for a few minutes, the tricky part starts. You’re first going to pour the white wine and when it’s evaporated, you will start pouring one cup of hot broth at a time. I usually have my broth simmering in a pot next to the skillet where I’m making the risotto and I use a ladle that I know fits one cup of liquid.
It’s really important to add just one cup at a time (and that you only add the next cup when the previous one has almost evaporated) and that you stir gently, almost constantly, to help release the starch molecules that are going to make your risotto creamy. It should take 3 cups of stock for 1 cup of rice. I usually have about 4 cups or so simmering so I can add some more if I feel the rice is still too dry.
Then you turn the heat off and you stir in the cold butter, vigorously but being careful to not break the grains. This is called the mantecatura and it’ll help your risotto get smooth and creamier! :) I love how the Italians have names to all the stages…It makes it sound so exotic and sophisticated.
The final texture, according to the Italians, should be all’onda, which means wavy/flowing in waves. It is a fairly fluid texture but with separated al dente grains.
Once the risotto is off the heat and you’ve stirred the cold butter, then it’s time to make it super delicious and put all the “ornaments” in it. I find it better to add the tomato and the arugula, stir, and only then add the mozzarella stirring just a little bit because the mozzarella melts and makes it difficult to plate.
And that’s it! Time to open a cold bottle of white wine (I usually serve the same wine I cooked with!) and serve your risotto as a first course or as a meal by itself with some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and some black pepper on the side. I promise you this dish will get you many uhs and ahs as this is not only a delicious risotto, but it also looks very beautiful and colorful.
Oh, make sure you serve it right away because the risotto might keep cooking in its own heat and turn out dry and mushy.
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 shallots, chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 3 cups hot vegetable stock (plus 1 just in case)
- 2 Tbsp cold butter
- 2 cups arugula, washed and dried
- 1 cup little vine tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), quartered
- ¾ cup fresh mozzarella, diced
- Parmigiano Reggiano to serve
- Salt to taste
- Start by setting your vegetable stock to simmer in a separate pot. It has to be hot by the time you add it to the rice.
- In a medium or large pan, over medium/high heat add the olive oil and once it's hot, add the shallots, making a soffritto.
- Once the shallots are translucent, add the arborio rice and fry it with the soffritto so all the grains get coated in the fat.
- Reduce the heat to medium low.
- Add the white wine and cook until it evaporates completely.
- Add the first cup of vegetable stock and cook, stirring occasionally (and gently) until it is absorbed by the rice.
- Repeat the process with the other 2 cups of stock, one at a time. If at the end, you think your rice is still too hard, add one more cup of stock and cook until it's al dente.
- Turn the heat off and add the butter, stirring vigorously but being careful to not break the grains.
- Once the butter has been added and stirred, add the tomatoes and the arugula and stir until everything is incorporated.
- Add the fresh mozzarella and stir gently.
- Taste to check seasoning and add salt if necessary.
- Serve immediately, with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.