I must admit that when I came across this recipe for Strawberry Risotto from Recipes from an Italian Summer, I was dubious. The combination didn't seem overly appealing at first, but it stuck with me and after a few days I decided that it was time to stop speculating on what it would taste like and get cooking. The fact that I had three quarts of strawberries sitting in my fridge didn't hurt either.
Aside from the addition of strawberries, this is a pretty standard risotto recipe with chopped onion softened in butter, Arborio rice, white wine, and simmering vegetable stock that is gradually incorporated throughout the cooking process, and finished with heavy cream. The strawberries come into play during the last ten minutes of cooking. They're mashed and added to the risotto, turning it a lovely shade of pink.
My primary concern with adding the strawberries was that this otherwise savory risotto would be turned into something along the lines of a sweet, warm rice pudding. But after the strawberries had cooked into the risotto, their sweetness dissipated and the faint tartness took over, giving the risotto a flavor that was bursting with strawberry flavor without being cloyingly sweet. The combination of flavors was incredible—fresh and rich at once.
But something was missing. I considered a drizzle of balsamic to finish the risotto, but was concerned that it might muddy the pinkness and overpower the strawberry flavor. Instead I opted for a sprinkling of julienned arugula since the pepperiness cut through the rice risotto and give it a bit of lightness. It was perfect and the risotto ended up being not only delicious and unusual, but a dish that I would make again in a second.
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As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Recipes from an Italian Summer to give away this week.
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups risotto rice
- 1 3/4 cups dry white wine
- 2 3/4 cups hulled strawberries
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Pour the stock into a pan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer.
Meanwhile, melt half the butter in another pan. Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until it is softened. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until all the grains are coated with melted butter.
Add the wine and cook for 5 minutes, or until the alcohol has evaporated. Add a ladleful of the hot stock to the rice and cook, stirring, until it has been absorbed. Continue adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, and stirring until each addition has been absorbed. This will take 18-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, set a few whole strawberries aside for the garnish and mash the remainder in a bowl. Ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the mashed strawberries to the risotto. When it is almost ready, gently stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with the reserved whole strawberries.