Risotto with Radicchio, Ubriaco Cheese and Chestnuts – classic regional ingredients from Treviso province in Italy.
By Kathy Bechtel
As I develop recipes for cooking classes, both here and those I hold in Italy on our culinary bike tours, I include dishes that incorporate the wonderful products of the Veneto region, reflect the traditional cuisine of the area, and are ones that our guests would be able to prepare in their own kitchens when they return home. I’ve done many classes introducing risottos, and students always enjoy them, and there are so many options to make this dish different every time.
Radicchio is one of the foremost products of the Veneto – there are 4 different varieties that are officially recognized with the IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) or DOP (Denominazione Origine Protetta) designations. Both designations protect these products from lower quality competitors using the same names by dictating the region, production methods, varieties and other details of the production process. You will find the familiar Chioggia radicchio, which is the type most common here in the US, ball-shaped, and resembling a small purple cabbage. The beautiful walled city of Treviso is radicchio ‘central’ of the Veneto region, with two Radicchio Rosso di Treviso, the Precoce variety and the Tardivo, both more elongated that the Chioggia. I love this slightly bitter vegetable, and can find locally grown Chioggia radicchio in New England, so a radicchio risotto is a perfect dish to include in my classes.
Often risottos are made with a bit of wine being the first addition of liquid; prosecco is what I’ve chosen to include, the renowned sparkling wine from the Treviso area. Finishing the risotto with a cheese is traditional, my choice in this recipe is a Ubriaco Prosecco, another product from the Veneto. This cooked cow’s milk cheese is washed with the pomace, or grape must, leftover from the wine production process; a very tasting and tangy cheese that will stand up well to the radicchio. My local cheese shop carries the Ubriaco Prosecco on a regular basis, but a grana padano, or other tangy aged hard cheese would make a good substitute.
Most chefs are familiar with the use of two strains of rice for risotto, Arborio and Carnaroli. Carnaroli rice is grown in the Grumolo area of the Veneto today, just east of Vicenza . But the area is perhaps best known for its unique regional strain, Vialone Nano. Developed in 1937 by crossing the Vialone strain with the Nano, it is considered by many to be the premier risotto rice produced in Italy. It is the only European rice with its own IGP quality designation.
One other Veneto product I’ve included here is marroni, or chestnuts. In September, these are found at every market, freshly roasted and ready for snacking. In the forests of northern and western Veneto as well as north in Trentino and east in Friuli, chestnuts have been a traditional food since ancient times, used as is, or as chestnut flour. It is even used as pig fodder, and required feed for some of the IGP and DOP prosciuttos. In the US, I will substitute walnuts when I can’t find good chestnuts.
- About 6½ cups (1.5 l)vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon (25g) butter
- 1 onion, chopped into ¼ inch dice
- 1 stalk celery, chopped into ¼ inch dice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 head radicchio, cored and cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
- 2 cups (0.5kg) risotto rice, preferably Vialone Nano, Carnaroli, or Arborio
- ½ cup (0.125l) prosecco or white wine
- ¾ cup (135 g) grated Ubriaco cheese
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup (80g) toasted chestnuts
- 8 basil leaves, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
- Bring the stock to a boil in a large pot.
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, and cook until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and radicchio; cook for 1 minute.
- Add the rice. Stir for about 1 minute. Add the prosecco, and simmer until it has evaporated. Stir in a ladleful of the stock. Cook, adding the stock a ladleful at a time, and allowing it to be absorbed by the rice before adding more. Cook until the rice is just tender to the bite, or ‘al dente’. You may not use all of the stock.
- Stir in the cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Divide between 4 serving plates, garnish with walnuts and basil and serve.