If you read my previous post, you know that I had a little moment of self doubt. I decided that the best way to get back into it was to make something that really requires a lot of love and attention. Making risotto is all about patience and tonight I just blasted some music, sipped on some wine and cooked my heart out. And just like magic, it tasted like heaven!
It’s only natural to pair an Italian wine with an Italian dish. Nebbiolo is a grape variety from the foggy region of Piedmont, Italy. Barolo and Barbaresco…Does that ring a bell? They are the two most recognizable wines made exclusively with Nebbiolo grapes. They are known for being very light in smell and orangey in colour yet surprinsingly intense in flavour. Yes Nebbiolo wines are highly deceptive; what you see is not what you get! The tannins are very present so it’s a wine that might need some getting used to. Younger wines especially tend to be a little harsh on the palette. On the other hand, these wines age extremely well; that’s also why they can be expensive. Very often aged in oak, you will rarely see a wine that is not at least 2 or 3 years old. But fear not my friends for I have found some delicious and affordable options for beginners (like me). Keep on reading to find out what they are!
For 4 servings
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup of white wine or vermouth
- 2 cups of arborio rice
- 2,5L of vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp of butter
- 1 cup of grated parmesan
- 1 acorn squash, divided
- A pinch of nutmeg
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 10 chestnuts
- 5-6 sage leaves, chopped
- Olive oil for cooking
Preheat your oven at 400°F. Cut your squash in half and remove the seeds. Take one half and cut into 4-5 chunks. Drizzle with some olive oil, salt & pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Bake for 40 minutes.
If you bought fresh chesnuts, score them with an X on one side and then bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes. You can do it at the same time as your squash. Let them cool before peeling them and then chop them up into smaller pieces. In a small pan, sautee them for a few minutes with the chopped sage, salt, pepper and some olive oil. Reserve for presentation.
While the squash and chesnuts are baking, take the other half of the squash and chop it into small pieces. Add them to a large saucepan along with your stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer.
In a seperate saucepan on medium-low heat, drizzle some olive oil and sautee your celery and onion. Let them cook for about 10 minutes or until soft. Bump up the heat a bit, then add your rice and deglaze with the wine or vermouth. When the alcohol has evaporated then you can start adding your stock slowly. The key to this is to go a bit at a time so it does require a lot of attention. With a ladle, transfer some hot stock (with the squash chunks) to your rice pan. Always one spoonful at a time! Stir and when the liquid has evaporated, add another one. This can take a good 30 minutes…You can taste as you go and when the grains are no longer crunchy, you can remove the pan from the heat. Then add the butter, the parmesan and salt & pepper to taste.
Scoop a generous amount of the risotto into a bowl. Take your oven baked squash, lay it on top of the rice as you please. Sprinkle the chestnut and sage mixture on top as well as some freshly grated parmesan. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
WHY IT WORKS
As we have seen before, wines with high tannins are the perfect counterparts to buttery, salty and fatty dishes. The risotto is rich but by cutting it with the wine, you can keep eating without exhausting your palette. Next time you plan on eating some heavy and creamy pasta your mind should go straight to Nebbiolo!
I would have loved to go all out and buy a really expensive Barolo just for the heck of it but I do have a bit of self control…Slowly but surely, my palette isn’t ready yet anyways!
Beni di Batasiolo Barbaresco 2013, Italy (27,10$)
- Beni di Batasiolo Barolo 2013, Italy (28,55$)
Viberti Giovanni Buon Padre Barolo 2011, Italy (39,75$)