Today we’re talking about capers from Pantelleria, tiny but very rich in flavour. But there’s more, we’ll also discover caper berries, caper leaves and the caper production farm that brings Pantelleria’s tradition to the world. Ready to go?
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Fantastic risotto recipes and where to find them
Not all risotto dishes are alike. Sometimes this supposedly creamy dish ends up having the same consistency as lime mortar. It might be useful to build a wall, but it’s not that easy to digest.
Why does risotto often turn out all wrong? Elementary, my dear Watson! The problem lies in the rice. That’s why, if you choose a prime-quality rice such as Acquerello rice, you can cook risotto any way you like and it will still taste delicious.
So, the best rice variety is Carnaroli rice, that’s a fact. Do not believe it when they tell you that Arborio rice or Roma rice are practically the same. Trust us, instead, and stock up on some Carnaroli rice.
What can we say about Carnaroli rice? It was first made in 1945 in Paullo from a cross between Vialone and Lencino rice varieties. This rice does not overcook, it holds its structure very well and remains compact and it is perfectly creamy, but not too soft. This is due to the fact that it does not lose starch and it perfectly absorbs all liquids while it’s being stirred.
Acquerello rice, beyond exceptional
So, we all agree that the best Italian rice variety is Carnaroli rice, but what’s the best Carnaroli rice? Do you know Acquerello rice? That’s the best rice in Italy (and perhaps even in the world). The magazine Forbes even selected Acquerello rice aged 7 years as one of the 15 most exclusive gourmet gifts in the world.
There are many factors that make Acquerello rice so special: first of all, its story. The company is located in the Tenuta Colombara (Colombara estate), in the Vercelli plain. On this estate, which used to be a hostel for wayfarers, rice has been cultivated since the 15th century.
In 1571, this estate became a farmstead which included houses, inns and workshops. In the second half of the 19th century, the estate grew even bigger and in 1920, a dormitory for seasonal rice weeders was built.
The story of rice is deeply intertwined to that of rice weeders, i.e., women and girls that have greatly contributed to Italy’s agricultural economics of the early 20th century.
A lot has changed since then: their dormitory was turned into a “Conservatory of rice farming” and rice processing has become one of the most innovative fields in the world.
As many as 20 delicate steps turn Carnaroli rice into the precious Acquerello rice. Rough rice is turned into white rice using a helix, the germ is reintegrated into the grain, which is actually a process protected by an international patent, and the whole production process strives for perfection.
And we all know that good things take time: as long as one year, which is the aging period of rice in silos at a controlled temperature, or even as long as 7 years, in order to obtain a product with an unmatched quality.
Since we are on the subject of time, do you know that you should never serve risotto, without letting it rest first? To reach the ideal consistency, you should let it rest for at least 5 minutes with the lid on. Let’s see what we can make with this extraordinary rice.
Risotto Milanese (saffron risotto)
The traditional recipe calls for ox bone marrow and saffron pistils, two unique ingredients in terms of flavour and intensity.
First of all, prepare the beef broth, then toast Acquerello rice with an onion, ox bone marrow and very little butter. Add dry white wine and broth, stirring once in a while. After 8 to 9 minutes, add the saffron and salt, if necessary.
Take off the heat, add cold butter and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Stir, cover with a lid, let it set and serve. Such a marvellous dish.
Vegetarian risotto: pumpkin and Gorgonzola cheese, radish and Taleggio cheese or bolete mushrooms
There is no beef broth here, of course, but that doesn’t mean that the flavour is any less intense. These are my top three vegetarian risottos, but you can let your creativity run wild.
I chose winter/autumnal ingredients, since I reckon that there is nothing better than a steaming risotto to warm us up during the cold nights, but a nice risotto with spring/summer ingredients can also significantly improve your mood.
Risotto with pumpkin: my favourite pumpkin variety is Mantovana pumpkin which I bake in the oven with the skin on, and I add it to the risotto once the rice has started to change its colour. As far as everything else is concerned, the recipe is quite traditional: toast the rice with an onion, then pour some white wine and add butter and once you have taken it off the heat, add some Gorgonzola cheese and let it rest with the lid on.
Risotto with radish and Taleggio cheese: to make this risotto, I only use one pot. I sweat the onion, add some Treviso radish and the rice and let it simmer with wine and butter. At the end, once I have taken the pot off the heat, I add Taleggio cheese and stir. Garnish with walnuts.
Last but not least, Risotto with bolete porcini mushrooms. The trickiest part for me is cleaning the mushrooms.
Everything else is quite straightforward: remember that you should add the mushroom stems first, since they take longer to cook, while you should add the mushroom gills when the rice is practically done. Never overcook mushrooms – it is better to undercook them than to overcook them.
Add butter and a copious amount of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese off the heat. I personally don’t like parsley, and I feel that thyme pairs really well with mushrooms.
Fisherman’s-style risotto (by chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo)
Here things get a little trickier, since you need to pay attention to many things. First of all, the fish must, of course, be of prime quality and it would be ideal to make a fish stock out of fish bones (such as gilthead breams, bars and what you can find at the market) and crustacean heads.
The chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo toasts the rice without adding butter or onion, and he lets it simmer with white wine. Then, he turns up the heat and adds some broth. Scallops, shrimps and mussels are simply dressed and added to the rice. Then, he stirs the risotto with garlic-infused oil.
One basil leaf to garnish and the dish is ready. Pay attention to the cooking time: Acquerello rice does not overcook, but nobody likes a raw or overcooked mussel.
Acquerello rice is a safe bet. From a patented innovation straight to your dish – a delicacy made of precious grains.
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