Today when I was browsing in a book shop in town (in the cooking section, my favourite) I stumbled across a book that stirred up so many memories in me, I just had to buy it.
The book is Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Sicily.
You see, Giorgio and I have a past. We got to know each other quite intimately when I spent some time living in Tuscany a few years ago.
When we moved in to our casa bella in Pietrasanta, cooking was the last thing on my mind. And then I found Giorgio. His book, Made in Italy was one of only two cook books in the house and it was not long before I was stealing quiet moments to hide myself away with my glass of vino rosso to lose myself in the stories of Giorgio’s life and culinary journey.
The Italians love food, that’s no secret. But it’s more than that. It’s passion, it’s love, it’s family…the absolute pulse of their lives. It’s about connection. Connecting to the earth, to the seasons. Connecting to where food comes from, how it is grown, made and prepared. It’s connecting to family and friends…and whoever else who happens to be around at the time a meal is served!
My Cucina in Pietrasanta.
And so I began with the basics. I mastered gnocci, pasta with pesto and of course, risotto. I still make my risotto per Giorgio and here are some of his tips…
Use a really good stock
Begin with a soffritto – onions, sometimes garlic and butter – chop your onion very fine, there is nothing worse than crunchy onion in risotto!
When you add the rice to toast it (tostatura) make sure the temperature is very high – the rice needs to be very hot when the wine hits it so it evaporates completely.
Keep it simple…choose one or two hero ingredients such as asparagus, mushrooms or sausage and you don’t always have to use Aborio rice, sometimes Carnaroli is lovely for a lighter, more simple risotto.
Add your stock slowly…piano, piano…
When your risotto is cooked, turn off the heat for a minute or two before adding the mantecatura…this is the heavenly combination of diced cold butter and parmesan cheese that you beat into your risotto producing a ‘thwack, thwack’ sound and an incredibly creamy and rich risotto.
Be sure to drink the rest of the white wine left in the bottle, play Italian music, dress in your sexiest Sophia Loren style dress and speak with an Italian accent – okay – this one is mine, not Giorgio’s but I swear it makes for a risotto perfecto!
So…are you craving a risotto now? I am! It’s on my menu for tomorrow night…and it will be a simple Aparagus and Parmesan delight.
If you are interested in Italian cooking, I can’t speak highly enough of Giorgio Loccatelli’s books and television programs…just be careful not to fall in love x