Risotto with Radicchio and Balsamic Vinegar – easy enough for an expat!

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I had no idea how many recipes you could make with Balsamic Vinegar before moving to Modena, home of this delicious, thick, ancient condiment.  After interviewing the Acetaia Malagoli Daniele, where they produce Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, my mind was blown by the fact that you have to wait 12 years for a single drop of the traditional stuff, and they use white grapes ….who knew!?

 

In this part of the world it is not unlikely to have a whole section of the menu dedicated to pastas, (tortelloni con aceto balsamico), meats (filetto all’aceto balsamico) and rice dishes using the world famous vinegar.

 

If you’ve only known Balsamic Vinegar as the watery stuff found in the grocery store (me before moving here), then you’ve probably never thought of using it in recipes or on its own with fruit and cheese.  I’m here to tell you…there’s more to it!  The real deal is incredible served on its own in a spoon (seriously, HEAVEN!), on real Parmigiano Reggiano aged cheese or on strawberries in the summertime!   Another great way of using Traditional Balsamic Vinegar to bring out all of its flavors is to use it in a recipe, like the easy one I want to share:

 

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Risotto with Radicchio & Balsamic Vinegar

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of red radicchio lettuce, you should be able to find this at most major grocery stores, or specialty Italian grocery stores
  • 350 grams (12.34 ounces) of rice for risotto (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
  • 1 red onion
  • vegetable broth (at least 1 litre – 33.81 oz)
  • a half cup of non-traditional balsamic vinegar, or Vinegar IGP.
  • a few drops of real Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
  • Red Wine (about half a cup for cooking + more to have yourself an aperitivo while you make dinner!!)
  • a small amount of butter (about a table spoon) or olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

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The How To  {Easy Enough for an Expat}

I’m not scared of cooking, my Italian husband, has already forced me to overcome a lot of the “cooking for an Italian” fear I had in the first few years of being together.  However, I am well aware that skill and mastery of certain things take time.  “RISOTTO” to Italians means the PERFECT cooking time when the rice is not too hard and not too soft.

Over cook it and it is mush, under cook it and its like your eating raw rice risotto.

Even when I’m in a rush, I always follow these tricks of the trade:

  1. Buy a rice especially for RISOTTO, like Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone nano.  Any old rice will not due, and if you choose from these three you have a pretty decent starting point.
  2. Toast up your rice with some butter (under a table spoon) BEFORE adding the hot broth, this locks in flavors, or properties…… ok I don’t remember why it is important, but Italians INSIST on doing it, so I do.
  3. Don’t ADD COLD LIQUID TO YOUR COOKING RICE.  After you’ve gotten your rice nice and toasty, you do not want to end the cooking process by adding cold water or broth.

    This is why you should have your broth boiling over a low flame in a pot beside where you are making your risotto. 

 

Just to prove this recipe is easy enough for a child, here is my little helper cooking away!

Just to prove this recipe is easy enough for a child, here is my little helper cooking away!

Steps:

#1 Chop up the onion and using some olive oil, soften it over a low flame in your risotto making pan.

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#2 Wash, chop and add your radicchio to the onion, and also let it soften, over a low flame.

 

#3 Add in a tablespoon of butter and your rice.  Let it toast over a low/med flame.  You don’t need to scorch it, you just need to toast it. Add in a pinch or two of salt  and did you notice the pot of broth in the background?!

 

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#4 Add in your half glass of red wine and let it all evaporate.  I usually reserve half a glass for the recipe, and at least another half for me to drink while cooking! (It is a miracle that ANY recipe actually turns out)

 

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#5 Un mestolo alla volta – meaning one ladle at a time, add in your boiling hot broth.  If you read the three steps in the intro, you prepared your broth in a separate pot and it is now nice and hot.  When I am organized I make fresh vegetable or meat stock, when I am in a rush I use the stock cubes (low sodium)

#6 The whole idea here, is that you add a ladle of broth and stir with a wooden spoon until your rice is perfect.  I usually keep my eye on the time and in about 20 minutes it is ready.  You’ll want to keep the flame on medium so that it cooks, but not too hot that the broth instantly evaporates.  

** Please note that if you are using WHOLE RAIN rice, cooking times may double.  You’ll also not want to make this too far in advance.  It is best served hot!

#7 After your rice is cooked you’ll want to add in about half a cup of non-traditional balsamic vinegar, but still THE GOOD STUFF, not the watery cheep imitation stuff.  

You can find Balsamic Vinegar IGP in any specialty grocery store at a pretty good price.  You can also find it online here at a great price, shipped directly from Italy.  This means, that the balsamic vinegar was still created using all of the traditional methods (which you can read about here), however it has NOT BEEN aged for 12 years.  Or perhaps it has been aged for that long, but it is not certified as “traditional”.

Below you can see the EXACT SAME Balsamic Vinegar by the Acetaia Malagoli Daniele.  One bottle is the certified and costs nearly double the non-certified stuff…even though it is the exact same product.

 

 

#8 Radicchio, in general, is a very bitter type of lettuce.  In this recipe it’s bitter flavors become perfectly subdued and balanced against the tangy sweet flavor of the balsamic vinegar.  Feel free to add in more if you still find it too bitter.  I, personally, like mine quite sweet!

 

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 And that’s it!

I hope this recipe has inspired you to do different things with your Balsamic Vinegar and perhaps take a chance on making Italian risotto.

Please don’t forget to enter the great giveaway I am hosting on behalf of the Acetaia Malagoli Daniele and Susanna Martini La Gioja, who creates jewelry in Murano Glass.  This giveaway includes a bottle of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar and a 3 piece set inspired by it!

 

 

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This set is valued at 195 Euro ($212) and this giveaway is open internationally, until April 6, 2015.

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  • Christina

    mmmm… I wish I could try your risotto!! And I wish I could enter and win your giveaway!! #LongDistanceSisters

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  • Annette

    Wow that sounds and looks delicious. Radicchio is something I enjoy eating raw, but never considered cooking it. I’m going to have to give it a try.

    I like to use balsamic in my salad dressings, but I also like to use it to delgaze the pan after cooking steak or chicken; it makes such a wonderful sauce.

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  • Missa Lynn

    That risotto looks amazing! My favorite way to enjoy balsamic vinegar is to dip my bread into it!

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  • This looks delicious. I have never made risotto but I am sure this would be really good. I like to use balsamic in my dressings.

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    • I am by far not an experience risotto maker, but you know what….it’s not that hard! Let me know if you ever try it out!

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  • Mai Tran

    Looks delicious! I’d definitely try the vinegar with seafood risotto.

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  • Becky

    Your risotto looks yummy.. I love me a good Caprese Salad with balsamic vinegar

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    • Yes. One of my fave combinations is tomato and balsamic vinegar, in a Caprese just makes it even better, especially if all of the ingredients are excellent quality.

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  • Irena Mat

    Your risotto looks so delicious! My favorite way to enjoy Balsamic Vinegar is in salad.

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  • Coline T.

    with bread recipe that could be delicious! 🙂

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  • Lisa Walker

    I have never thought of cooking radicchio. Thanks so much for the amazing recipe idea!
    I usually use balsamic on salads, but I have been researching recipes to use it in different ways.

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  • I promise Janice it is not that hard! This whole process just took about 25 minutes…..besides if it doesn’t turn out there is always next time!

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  • I’ve literally been wanting to make this all winter! If I find time to make it this week I’m going to! But I’ll need to buy extra wine because it usually takes me at least half a bottle to make it through a risotto! And some complaining!

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    • I am such a lightweight 🙁 More than a glass and I’ll literally pass out….or I’ll do what I did the last time we ate at the Francescana and literally dance on the tables….Ugh – no more wine tasting menus for me….ever.

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  • This risotto sounds heavenly! I need to try it out.

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