Since I live here in Switzerland I must admit that I enjoy winter vegetables much more than before, as they grow beautifully in the Swiss mild climate and I can get them super fresh and in a huge variety from local farmers.
The other day I got inspired by a gorgeous Savoy cabbage, probably one of the healthiest foods on earth! A super vegetable with an intense flavour and a rough texture, perfect for a risotto with long cooking times. In this recipe I balanced its intense taste with the colour and the sweetness of the pumpkin, reinforced by the solid aftertaste of saffron.
As risotto is a North Italian dish, every time I cook it I feel a bit intimidated . . . and I religiously apply the 5 golden rules that my dear friend Anna (100% Milanese!) taught me many years ago:
1) Use the right rice: this will make a good 80% of the dish. The absolute best type of rice for a risotto is the Carnaroli (big grains, high in starch), but if you don’t find it you might also use a Vialone Nano or also Roma.
2) Always use a large pan, like you would do to cook a Spanish paella.
3) Never rinse the rice: it would wash the starch away and the risotto will be less creamy.
4) Never use a lid: it’s not a soup! My friend Anna used to say that if you cover it with the lid the risotto would steam . . . (which must be terrible for a risotto!)
5) You’ll need to stir often, but not continuously: the rice (especially the Carnaroli) will release too much starch and it will become excessively sticky. For the same reason, be gentle when you stir.
SAVOY CABBAGE, PUMPKIN AND SAFFRON RISOTTO
- 2 cups of Carnaroli rice
- extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup of carrot, finely chopped
- ½ cup of onion, finely chopped
- ¼ cup of celery, finely chopped
- ½ cup of white wine
- 3 cups of savoy cabbage, finely cut
- 3 cups of pumpkin, finely chopped
- 1 pinch of good quality saffron
- 4 cups of vegetable broth
- butter and grated Parmigiano, to taste
1. Wash and chop all the vegetables: if you are in a rush like me, use a food processor.
2. Prepare the “base”
In a large pan (very important!) heat a good splash of olive oil and add onion, celery and carrot. Brown lightly for about 10 minutes or until the onion has become transparent.
Bring the broth to boil and keep it ready, constantly boiling on low heat and covered with a lid.
3. Add the rice into the large pan and toast it for no more than one minute on high heat, then add the wine and let it evaporate.
4. Now add the pumpkin and the cabbage, a good pinch of salt and stir for a couple of minutes.
5. Now add a couple of ladles of broth and turn the heat down to a simmer.
Carry on adding a ladle of stock at a time, allowing the rice to absorb it before adding the next. Continue until you have used all the stock: it’ll take about 20 minutes, depending on the type of rice. Stir gently if needed. As I said before, you don’t need to stir continuously; however make sure to be always around and check if more broth is needed.
6. Add the saffron in the last 5 minutes:
When the rice is almost cooked, right before you add the last ladle of stock, add the pinch of saffron into it and pour it into the rice.
7. Check consistency and seasoning.
After about 20 minutes (it really depends of which rice you use) your rice should be cooked. Taste it and make sure it’s soft but still firm, al dente. Add more salt if needed.
8. Add butter and Parmigiano: Mantecare!
Take the risotto off the heat and stir in a small amount of butter and the grated Parmigiano.
If you are vegan, simply skip this step, it’ll be delicious anyway.