Italian dinner in Santa Monica

Who knows me or has been following my culinary adventures for a little while might be aware that I not only love cooking in general, but also – and in particular – for other people. It really makes me super happy seeing people’s satisfied, sparkling eyes that show appreciation, while eating the food I prepared for them.
Probably everybody knows that Italians spend long hours sitting at the table, eating and chatting about everything. The more, the merrier. Myself, I really enjoy it: no doubt, I think it’s one of the best ways to have some good quality time with people.

It was a while that I had in mind to prepare a nice, Italian dinner for my American family, in particular after I found radicchio at the supermarket – something that is super rare in tulipland. Radicchio is a purple-colored leaf chicory that is very typical in Italy.
When we were shopping together at the grocery store and I saw the radicchio, I promised R., my host mum, that one day I would have prepared some risotto al radicchio, which is one of my favorite dishes ever. I love this vegetable as a side dish or to make a salad. I love it also as a pizza topping. Have you ever tried it? Well, fellas, try it out. It’s absolutely amazing.

SnapseedAnyway, last week we finally set a date for our Italian dinner. I wanted to treat my American family with some good, authentic Italian food.
As antipasto, I prepared one of the classics: Bruschette al pomodoro e basilico (picture on the right). The easiest recipe ever:

  • chopped cocktail tomatoes, remove the seeds, put them in a pot with salt and fresh basil;
  • let it rest for 30 minutes at least and keep removing the extra liquid released by the tomatoes;
  • brush the bread (I used pugliese bread) with some olive oil, toast it in the oven at max temperature for 4 minutes, then grill for 1 minute;
  • add oil to the tomatoes, stir and pour the mixture on the bread.

Easy right?

Then, we had risotto al radicchio as main course.I am so happy the family loved it!
This is the recipe I am posting today. Gli amici italiani can find the Italian version here.

And finally, well. How can we finish without a dessert?
Let’s keep it as a surprise for next time.

***

Risotto al radicchio

Ingredients (for 4 people)

320 gr risotto arborio
1 head of radicchio
1 small shallot
1 garlic clove
30 gr of walnuts
1 liter water
1,5 cubes of vegetable bouillon
60 gr grated parmesan cheese
1 glass of red wine
olive oil
salt to taste

Procedure

Let’s start with boiling the water in a pot together with the walnuts (keep a few on a side for the decoration). Remove the walnuts when the water is about to boil and add the cubes of vegetable bouillon, stir until the cubes are dissolved and turn the heat lower, so to keep the stock warm. Meanwhile, finely chop the radicchio and remove the white, hard core. Wash and dry well the radicchio leaves.

In a pan, add some olive oil to cook the chopped shallot and garlic until golden colored. Then, add the radicchio and let it brown a little bit. Next, add the rice and toast it for a few minutes.

Now, it’s time to cook the rice with the stock. Add 1 cup of stock at time and stir gently while the risotto absorbs the stock. Keep adding the warmed stock and taste the risotto to check for the texture. As typically Italian, I like the risotto al dente, but usually it takes about 15-20 minutes. When you feel (yes, it’s a matter of feeling it) that the risotto is almost ready (usually 5 minutes before the end), add the walnuts and red wine. Let the wine evaporating. Finally, add the parmesan cheese and stir with a wooden spoon until creamy. Season to taste with salt. Ladle into dishes and decorate with the remaining walnuts.

Pronto!

risotto radicchio

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