I first met Gabriele Ferron of the Antica Pila Vecia while shopping at the Mercato Centrale in Florence where he was visiting market vendors who sell his rice. He returned with me to my kitchen to cook the rice, showing me his risotto tricks.
He said, “Don’t stir my rice. It is too delicate.”
Well, ever since, that’s the way I make my risotto. Why stir?
I think people have problems in making risotto at home so often, adding the liquid and stirring all the time. They over cook and over stir. Try this and risotto will be your easy go to recipe like it is mine. I never make stock, simply water and the aromatics for the recipe. Good extra virgin oil, good sea salt, fresh seasonal ingredients. The best parmigiano reggiano you can afford. Keep it simple.
Here is a main course risotto from Isola della Scala( near Verona) where Gabriele’s artisanal rice fields are fed by spring water. The dish is rich with beef, pork, and broth. Cinnamon is his secret. Parmesan cheese in risotto is traditional throughout Italy. I’ve used Vin Santo in place of the cognac. The Vialone Nano is a risotto grain, shorter than Arborio, but you can use Arborio. My preferred rice is the Canaroli.
We went up to his farm and toured the rice paddies and had a lovely multicourse all rice meal. ( you need to reserve). The history of the mondine, the women that worked in the rice fields inspired a film, Riso Amaro: Bitter Rice.
- Serves 4
- 2 cups Vialone Nano rice Ferron
- 4 cups broth
- 3 ounces ground (or chopped) pork
- 3 ounces ground (or chopped) lean veal or beef
- 4 ounces plus 2 ounces butter
- 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1 rosemary branch
- 1 ounce cognac or brandy
- Salt and pepper
- Heat 4 ounces of butter with the rosemary. When the butter is golden, remove the rosemary and sautè the meat and raise the heat.
- When the meat is browned, splash the meat with the cognac, and season with salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Lower the heat and finish cooking.
- Meanwhile, heat the broth to boiling, add all the rice at once, and stir with a wooden spoon. When the broth comes back to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes.
- Uncover and add half the meat sauce, cover again, and let cook for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the rest of the ragù, the butter, and Parmesan. Stir until creamy.
I added chopped porcini mushrooms, first soaked. Filter the water they soak in and save for the risotto.Add the rice to the pan, stir until hot. I splashed with some prosecco and then added double the amount of water to rice. 2 cups of rice , 4 cups of liquid. ( I added the mushroom broth and the prosecco, which was about 1 cup).
Cover and cook for 15 minutes. When it is al dente, I uncovered and added a little more water and some grated parmigiano reggiano. Simple!
And don’t forget to try the Risotto al Zucca Gialla with Saffron, same technique for cooking!
Antica Riseria Ferron
Via Torre Scaligera, 9
37063 Isola della Scala (VR)