Make risotto with soft cauliflower stirred right in and top the creamy dish with crispy bacon or pancetta.
We are visiting Sudtirol on a couple of cycling tours next season, our Bike the Wine Roads of Trentino-Alto Adige adventure. We cycle along lovely bike paths that follow the Adige river, predominately flat, but surrounded by majestic steep hills. We see acres of apple orchards along the way, and many terraced vineyards cut into the hills. But hidden amongst the vineyards and apples are farms producing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables – strawberries, raspberries, cabbage, radicchio, lettuce, potatoes.
One doesn’t always think of this type of terrain being conducive to cultivating vegetables. But with over 300 days of sunshine a year, Sudtirol offers a particularly beneficial climate for quality produce. Warm days with lots of sunshine ensure the vegetables ripen, but the cooler nights slow this process down just enough to allow flavors and aromas to develop. The farmers in this region are committed to sustainable farming methods, moving towards totally organic, assisted by the fact that many pests cannot tolerate the higher elevations.
On our ride down through the Val Venosta, we pass through many small towns, each known for a favorite specialty – Pala pears in Glorenza, strawberries in the Martello Valley, white asparagus in Castelbello, apricots and cabbage in Lasa. Lasa, or Laas, as all towns in Sudtirol have both Italian and German names, is the largest area of cauliflower cultivation anywhere in Italy. Cauliflower is also grown Eisack and Puster valleys and on the Ritten plateau.
There are many ways of preparing cauliflower – roasting, steaming, poaching, or enjoying it raw. I found a very interesting recipe for a cauliflower risotto in Jamie’s Italy cookbook by Jamie Oliver. The cauliflower is poached in the risotto stock, and becomes so soft you can crush it and it disappears, becoming part of the creamy risotto – delicious! I’ve adapted it a bit here, replacing the anchovy flavored breadcrumbs with bacon or pancetta flavored, more in keeping with the traditional cuisine of Sudtirol.Print
Kathy Bechtel’s obsession with food and cooking began as a teenager. After years following a traditional career path as a telecommunications engineer, she left to attend culinary school and wine training, and is now combining her passions for food and wine, the outdoors, and travel as owner and Culinary Tour Director of Italiaoutdoors. In this role, Kathy leads small bicycle, skiing and walking tours that explore the authentic regional cuisines, local products and undiscovered wines of Northeastern Italy.