The mushroom risotto is one of my favourite autumnal comfort foods.

Preparing a good risotto is very easy, but it’s really important to follow some precise rules. It’s like pasta: everybody can cook it but not everybody knows how to prepare it properly.

First thing first, the stock: you can use ready-made stock (NO YOU CAN’T! Sorry, it was my inner voice :-D) but if we are talking about a good, Italian, healthy risotto you HAVE to prepare the stock from scratch. Actually it’s easy peasy, you just put all the ingredients in a pan with water and cook for an hour. You can do lots of things in the meanwhile forgetting about it, just set a timer and leave it on the hob, no fuss at all!

The second very important rule is to use a good wine: if the wine you are going to use is not good for drinking, please, don’t use it. At end, even if subtle, you will taste its flavour in the risotto and you will ruin the dish.

Last but not least the “mantecatura“, that is the final step when you add the grated cheese and the cold butter and mix the risotto. For a perfect “mantecatura” (sorry there isn’t a proper term in English, blending is probably the word closer to it) you should move the pan back and forth to blend butter and cheese and create the right creamy consistency. So, the ideal pan is large and shallow with a handle, not too heavy so you can move it easily. Avoid using a pasta pan because it could be too high and the rice won’t cook evenly.

Bear in mind these three simple rules and you will cook a perfect delicious mushroom risotto.

Mushroom and speck risotto with cheese

Mushroom risotto

Prep Time:60 minutes
Cook Time:16-20 minutes
Servings:4 people

Ingredients

  • For the risotto
  • rice (arborio, risotto rice): 350 grams
  • mushrooms , wild and chestnut: 400 grams
  • vegetable stock: 1/1,5 litre
  • onion: 1/2
  • unsalted butter , cold: 90 grams
  • extra virgin olive oil: 2 tbsp
  • white wine , dry: 1 glass
  • speck , diced (or pancetta or bacon): 80 grams
  • grated parmesan cheese: 80 grams
  • For the vegetable stock
  • water: 2 litre
  • onion: 1
  • celery stalk: 3
  • carrots: 3
  • black peppercorns: 1 tsp
  • salt
  • sun dried tomatoes: 1

Instructions

  1. Prepare the stock: put all the ingredients in a big heavy-bottomed pan, bring to the boil and then boil gently for 1 hour. Pour the stock through a sieve into a clean pan and discard the vegetable pieces. Keep the stock warm.
  2. Clean gently the mushrooms using a soft brush and a damp paper towel. Cut them into thin slices and cook in a pan with 2 tablespoons of oil and 10 grams of butter on high heat to keep them crunchy, season with salt to taste only at the end. Do not over cook the mushrooms because they are going to cook also with the risotto.
  3. Put the diced speck in a pan and fry it on high heat until crunchy. Set aside.
  4. Finely chop the onion, put it into a big shallow pan with 30 grams of butter and a splash of oil. Gently fry the onion on medium heat for a couple of minutes, add the rice, turn up the heat and stir until the rice will look translucent. Pour the wine, keep stirring until the alcohol evaporates.
  5. Start adding the stock (while cooking the risotto, the stock must be hot. Keep it on the hob on low heat all the time) one ladle at a time. Turn the heat down to a simmer.
  6. Keep adding ladles of stock, stirring gently and allowing each ladle to be absorbed before adding the next one. Cook for 10 minutes then, add half of the mushrooms, the speck (reserve some pieces for serving) and continue to cook, adding the stock for about 6 minutes. Now taste the rice, if it's not cooked keep adding stock and cook for no more than 4 minutes.
  7. Once the rice is cooked add the remaining mushrooms and stir; turn off the heat, add 50 grams of butter and the grated cheese and mix the risotto moving the pan back and forth until well combined.
  8. Serve hot with the crunchy speck and some extra grated Parmesan.

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