Bianca's risotto 'con tastasal' from the Veneto region

Bianca's risotto 'con tastasal' from the Veneto region

Bianca lives with her son and his family high in the hills north of Verona. She and her daughter in law Claudia are keen cooks and here they're showing us how to make 'risotto con tastasal'. Tastasal means 'taste the salt' in dialect, and it refers to the seasoned fresh pork mince put into salami. Housewives like to check if the seasoning is correct by using a small amount in a risotto. 

You can buy 'tastasal' in all the local butchers; as far as I know, this is special to the Veneto (do tell me if you've come across it elsewhere in Italy). Taking the skins off good quality sausages and crumbling the meat is a pretty good substitute. Look for 90% meat, free range ones - you don't want to be adding breadcrumbs to your risotto.

You could of course make some tastasal yourself: use a mixture of lean and fat pork meat: belly, loin, and shoulder. Mince these cuts with garlic, freshly ground pepper and salt. You want a medium grind: not a paste and not too chunky. Leave in the fridge for a couple of days for the flavours to meld and develop. 

The local rice variety is Vialone Nano, but Carnaroli is just as good. 

To make Bianca's risotto, allow 90-100g of rice per person. So for 4 people:

50g butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 juniper berries, crushed

1 sprig of rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped

360g rice

1 glass of white wine

1 - 1.5 litre meat stock (beef or chicken), warmed to a very gentle simmer

200g tastasal sausage meat

1 teaspoon of freshly ground cinnamon

60g Monte Veronese cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

To make the risotto, watch the video. You'll note Bianca hasn't read all the instructions about adding a ladle of stock at a time; she just makes it and it turns out delicious! Personally I like to fry the meat separately and add it to the rice.

Saute the onion in the melted butter until is is soft and not coloured. Add the rosemary and juniper berries and fry for a minute more.

Stir in the rice and fry it over a medium heat until it sounds gritty. Add the wine, let it reduce and then add about half the stock. Let this simmer down and continue adding ladles full until you think the rice is done (firm to eat, but not chalk in the middle). 

Meanwhile fry the sausage meat until it's cooked (use a non stick pan so you don't need to add any more fat). Add it to the risotto along with the cinnamon and grated cheese. Leave for a couple of minutes before serving.