Risotto should always be made with a short-grain rice because it absorbs the broth without the grains loosing their bite. Carnaroli, vialone nano and arborio are the main varieties. Carnaroli is the most expensive, vialone nano is preferred by Venetians and arborio is probably the best known and most readily available.
Fennel is a common vegetable in Sicily and grows wild on the island. I use this versatile vegetable quite often. Eaten raw it cleanses the palate after a large meal and serves as a digestivo (a food to aid in the digestive process).
This comforting, creamy fennel risotto can be enjoyed as a primi piatti (first course) or a main dish paired with carpaccio.
- 2 medium fennel bulbs, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 lemons, zested (reserve some for garnish)
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/3 cup white white
- 4 cups vegetable broth, hot (see*note below)
- 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 2 tablespoons cream
- Salt and pepper
- With a sharp knife, remove the stem end of the bulbs, trim away any stalks and fronds (reserve stems for another recipe, save fronds for garnish and this beverage recipe).
- Using a heavy-bottom saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened but not browned. Stir in the fennel and lemon zest. Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated.
- Pour in the wine and stir until it has been completely absorbed.
- Add one ladle of hot broth and stir until it has been absorbed. *(I put my broth in a large Pyrex glass measuring container. I can then microwave it and just pour out a cup at a time as needed. You could also just heat the broth in a saucepan and use a ladle). This is the point where you need to be patient. Continue to add the hot broth a ladle at a time and simmer (continue stirring) until the broth has been absorbed. (Reserve the last ladle) After about 15-20 minutes, taste to see if the rice is tender but still firm.
- Add the reserved broth, the Parmesan cheese and cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and cover. let rest for 2 minutes.
- To serve, spoon into warmed bowls, garnish with lemon zest and fennel fronds.
The fern-like plant is wild fennel with a bougainvillea growing in the background. A familiar site on our walks through the Sicilian countryside.