Sunday Pasta®:Risotto alla Milanese (Two Ways)
Waking up is easy in Italy. No hangovers. No “what have I done” moments. No unattractive surprises. This has nothing to do with excellent wine, superior genes, or meticulous grooming habits. No, it’s easy to wake up in Italy because Italians know that they must face last night’s choices in the morning, and so they don’t jump at the first opportunity, or for that matter drink so much that they just don’t care. Instead, they show discipline and patience, and always wake up feeling healthy and proud. They then saunter over to the refrigerator and open it, only to realize that they are still madly in love with the leftovers from last night’s dinner. This is because they understand, as a rule, that if the food isn’t really good at night, then it will be scary in the morning.
The genius of la cucina Italiana is that leftovers are merely an opportunity to eat the same delicious food again. Unlike any processed or junk food, last night’s pasta can be even more delicious the next day. Reheated in a pan with olive oil, it may actually be tastier than the original – and in my house, worth hiding in a corner of the refrigerator. The same is true for Risotto alla Milanese, which is always delicious when piping hot and freshly made. But in the morning light, it too may be even tastier when the leftovers are prepared al salto, or fried into a crispy cake. So delicious, in fact, that you’d be proud to introduce it to your family and friends.
p.s. Check out our wine pairings to complement this dish.
In a saucepan over a low flame, add the saffron to the stock and keep warm. In a large skillet, over medium heat, sauté the onion in a little butter and the olive oil until translucent. Add the rice and stir together until opaque and lightly toasted. Add the wine and let cook for a minute, and then add a ladle of the hot stock. Continue to cook and stir (preferably with a fork) until the liquid is almost fully absorbed. As the liquid absorbs, add more stock, a ladle at a time, waiting until almost completely absorbed before adding more. Cook until rice is al dente, about 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the rice. Remove from the skillet from the heat and add the butter and the Parmigiano. Serve immediately (or prepare al salto).
If using freshly made risotto, it is important to cool it down by spreading it on wax paper on the counter or a cool surface, until warm. Divide it into equal portions of about 1 cup each. Heat a large skillet, preferably non stick. Melt a pat of butter in the center of the pan and set at low heat. Place a portion of the risotto in the center of the pan, and pack it down and shape it into a circle with a spatula. Cook for 3-5 minutes and with the help of a plate, flip it and cook the other side for another 3-5 minutes. It should be golden brown on both sides. Repeat for additional cakes. Serve immediately. (Note, this takes some practice, and keeping the risotto from breaking apart depends on your pan and stove. In addition, it is possible to make a singular, thicker cake by cooking all of the risotto together in a larger pan, and then cut and serve slices.)