Finally! We made it to Italy! We start out in the Piedmont region where the team time trial (TTT) takes place. The TTT requires heavy work which requires a heavy meal. It’s a good thing because in this region the cuisine is inspired by farmers and peasants where il vino che e pane (the wine that is bread) is nourishment for these hard working people…
Butter is preferred over olive oil due to a strong French influence while polenta and rice, highly cultivated in the Piedmont, are used much more than pasta. Meanwhile, perfumed truffles and mushrooms are featured frequently as they are found in the dark oak forests prevalent in this region. Hearty fruits and vegetables (potatoes, radicchio, cabbage and greens) grow well due to sunny days and warm nights.
I chose a hearty Risotto al Barolo as my first Italian dish as it perfectly embodies the region – it features a wine from the Piedmont region, risotto and butter. It is a warm satisfying dish after a long day of work. You could also add a few drops of truffle oil (or a few shavings of an actual truffle) if so inspired just to round out this dish.
I do know that a lot of you are intimidated by the thought of making risotto. Before you go running and screaming from your kitchen, let me give you this note: Risotto is honestly very easy to make (you just don’t have to reveal this fun fact to the people you are serving.) My preferred method for cooking risotto is different than in this recipe which requires you to simmer the risotto first, drain, then gradually add liquid. My method is the “add liquid a little at a time and don’t stir so often” method. Either way works just fine, I’m just partial to my way. Why? Megabeth prerogative, that’s why. (If you want to use my method, read my post entitled: “Risotto: It’s Not That Hard to Make.“) If you use this recipe’s method, be sure to reserve some extra of the vegetable broth you simmer the risotto in. I found that I needed to add more liquid towards the end to soften up the risotto even after adding the wine.
Risotto Al Barolo (Risotto with Barolo)
adapted from The Good Food of Italy
4 cups light vegetable stock
1 2/3 cups Arborrio rice
Salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
4 Tablespoons butter
About 1 1/4 cups Barolo or other good red wine
Bring the stock to the boil, add the rice, season with salt and pepper.
Simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then drain. (Note: Reserve some of the vegetable stock in case you need to add more liquid to the risotto later.)
In the meantime, in another large saucepan, fry the onion in 1 tablespoon of butter until soft and transparent, add the rice.
Pour in the wine a little at a time, and cook, stirring often, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the rice is tender. (Note: Add some of your reserved vegetable stock, little by little, if the rice has not cooked all the way through.) The risotto should be moist and creamy. Stir in the rest of the butter and let it melt in.
Sprinkle in some parmesean and stir until it is melted and creamy. Sprinkle additional cheese on top when serving.
Cycling photo copyrighted. Used with permission.