Elsa Vignali’s family hails from Piacenza in Emilia Romagna. In this part of Italy, rice is as popular as pasta and her porcini mushroom risotto is a family favourite.
Risotto has a reputation as being difficult to make, but it isn’t: you just need to enjoy the process of cooking the rice. For absolute beginners, I recommend Carnaroli rice; it’s more expensive but not as easy to overcook, like Arborio.
2 litres of good quality meat stock
50g butter, plus more to add at the end
1 onion, very finely diced
25g dried porcini, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
500g arborio or carnaroli rice
75ml white wine
2 big handfuls of freshly grated 24 month old Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Have the stock on a gentle simmer, ready for use.Adding cold stock messes up the cooking of the rice, so you want risotto and stock pans next to each other, both bubbling away.
Melt the butter over a medium heat. Elsa also adds a drop of olive oil and this is her personal preference. Sauté the onion until it’s soft and golden, but not browned; this will take around 5 minutes.
Remove the porcini from the soaking water and keep it for later use. Slice up the mushrooms – Elsa says it’s nice to see them in the risotto, so don’t be too enthusiastic. Add these to the onions and fry for another minute or so, to drive off any liquid before stirring in the rice. Elsa allows 100g per person.
Saute the rice until it sounds gritty in the saucepan and then add the wine and keep stirring until it has all evaporated. Add the strained porcini liquid and a teaspoon of salt. Now it’s a matter of ladling in the stock, a few scoops at a time, and stirring it into the rice until it’s cooked. You are aiming for firm grains – no crunch, no mush. And you want the final texture to be sloppy and pourable. Remember to stir constantly as this helps release the rice starches and creates creaminess.
Add generous quantities of Parmigiano cheese and butter – there is no point worrying about calories or carbs – and leave it to rest for a couple of minutes before serving.
Once you’ve turned off the heat, the rice will continue to absorb liquid, so you may want to add a tiny bit more to loosen it up just before serving.