Last August, when I was visiting family friends in Cellara, a small village in the Sila mountains where my family is from, my host brought out a basket of freshly-picked Porcini mushrooms.

Porcini Mushrooms

Fresh Porcini Mushrooms

 

We cooked them together and they were wonderful.

Cooking fresh porcini

Michele Carbone and Armando cook fresh Porcini mushrooms

While the dried Italian porcini mushrooms you find in the US are not as good as those freshly picked and eaten in the mountains of Calabria, they are still wonderful.  You can purchase them in the gourmet sections of your market.  If you cannot find the Italian funghi porcini, you can try this recipe with mixed dried mushrooms—but the flavor will not be quite the same.

Risotto is a classic Northern Italian preparation for their famous Arborio and Carnaroli rice products.  I prefer the Carnaroli risotto rice if you can find it, because it is a little starchier than Arborio; it’s less likely to get mushy if you overcook it.  Usually you need to look for the risotto rices in the gourmet sections of the market, although Amazon.com also has a variety of Italian rices available

So here is how you make risotto

Now for many years I thought I made the best risotto with porcini, until I ate it at “Papa` Giovanni” a restaurant in Roma near the Senate (strongly recommend you eat there!).  I called the host, Daniela, and told her: your risotto is better than mine.  How do you make it?  She told me she uses olive oil instead of butter, garlic rather than onion—I was surprised, to say the least.  I tried and it worked great, so I modified the recipe.  Here it is:

Ingredients for 4-7 people – depending on how much you eat!

  • 1 ounce (about 30 grams) dried funghi porcini (Porcini mushrooms)
  • 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 handful of finely-chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 spicy pepper, such as an Italian pepperoncino from Calabria or a Thai pepper
  • Salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 ½ cups of risotto, Carnaroli preferred (1 box of 450 grams)
  • About 1.5 liters chicken or vegetable broth, brought to a low boil in a medium sized saucepan (this is incorporated in the risotto)

How to Make this Recipe –critical step: DO NOT text, answer the phone etc.  You are cooking risotto, and the risotto wants and demands your full undivided attention and “he”–the risotto—will reward you for that!

  1. In a small bowl –enough to submerge the mushrooms, soak the dried funghi porcini in chicken broth water for about 30 minutes.
  1. Heat the chicken broth to a low boil (I do not recommend vegetable broth) in a pot. Keep the broth on a low boil or simmer throughout the recipe; the broth is incorporated into the rice one cup at a time, and it must be very hot when it is added.
  1. In a large heavy pan, add 1/3 cup olive oil, and 2 cloves of smashed garlic and sauté it gently until the garlic takes on a golden color.
    • While the garlic is being sautéd, squeeze the water/broth from the mushrooms that have been soaking and chop them. Reserve the water/broth so that you can incorporate it into the risotto later.
  2. Discard the garlic and add the finely-chopped parsley and spicy pepper (chopped very fine). Allow the flavors to combine for 30 seconds on low heat.Reserve a little bit of the chopped parsley for a garnish when you serve the risotto.
  3. Add the risotto, bringing the heat to medium. Toast the risotto in the pan for 2minutes, stirring so that each grain of rice is coated in the oil. The grains of rice should begin to cook—you’ll see kind of a white dot in the center of each grain, indicating that it’s read for the next step.  If you do not see well do not worry for the dot, after 2 min is ready!
  4. Add the chopped mushrooms and stir with the risotto for 1 minute or so.
  5. Add 1 cup of white wine, and continue to stir until the wine has been incorporated (30 seconds or so).
  6. Now start adding the heated broth, using a scoop or ladle to add it to the pan with the rice, 1 cup at a time.Keep stirring the risotto as it incorporates the broth.  You stir to make sure that each grain of rice is exposed to the broth and heat as it cooks.  I also re-heat the reserved water/broth from the soaked porcini and add that liquid to the pan as well, since it provides more of the mushroom flavor to the risotto.
  7. Continue adding broth, 1 cup at a time, until the risotto is ready. This usually takes about 20 – 25 minutes.  The risotto should be slightly firm – you don’t want it to get mushy- and remember that it will continue to cook for a little bit after you turn the fire off, so turn it off the fire 2 min before you think the risotto is ready.
  1. When the fire is off – risotto is ready– stir in the butter and about ½ cup of the grated Parmigiano. Sprinkle with the reserved chopped parsley.Put the rest of the grated Parmigiano in a small bowl so that you can serve at the table, allowing your guests to add more to their risotto if they like.  (Americans tend to use more Parmigiano on their pastas and risottos than Italians).

Wines: Barbaresco or Barolo, or Gattinara (10+ years old or older opened at least 12 hours earlier), or if you find it, try this one that I had the other day and that is outstanding Langhe Nebbiolo Cascina Luisin 2014, same grape as the other (Nebbiolo) but much less expensive, and opening it 1 hour in advance will do it)

Italiano

Il risotto ai porcini richiede brodo di pollo fatto in casa, porcini veri, tanto amore e poco o niente burro.

Soffriggere aglio in olio (1/3 of cup) rimuovere aglio aggiungere prezzemolo e pepperoncino, 30 secondi, aggiungere riso -450 grammi per 4-7 persone- cuocere a fuoco medio/alto 2 minuti, aggiungere i porcini freschi, oppure se secchi rinvenuti per 10 min almeno o di più in un po di brodo e poi strizzati.

Fuoco forte 1 minuto.

Aggiungere 1 bicchiere di vino bianco, fuoco forte, 1 minuto massimo, poi il resto dell’acqua in cui avere rinvenuto i porcini –sarà circa 1 cup, e poi abbassando un po il fuoco a medio/alto un po per volta brodo di pollo –non vegetale per favore!- finchè il risotto è quasi pronto.

Spegnere il fuoco 1-2 minuti prima che è pronto–il risotto continuerà a cuocere un po.

Aggiungere 1 cucchiaio di burro, circa ½ cup parmigiano, mischiiare bene, servire e offrite altro parmigiano a tavola a piacere.

Per il sale se il brodo era salato a dovere non serve, altrimenti dovete aggiungerlo.

Vino ideale, vedi sopra, se possibile Barbaresco di 15-20 anni.