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1-1/2 lb (600 gr) strawberries (half finely chopped, half halved, reserve a few strawberries
5 cups (approx 1 liter) chicken broth, warm to a simmer in a small saucepan
salt and pepper
4 oz (120 gr) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Strawberry risotto sounded really strange the first time I discovered this dish on
a menu. It was about 20 years ago and I was traveling in Verona. I am adventurous
with food: I like to taste (almost) everything at least once, and when the waiter
proposed it, he didn’t have to work a lot at convincing me.
I remember it took a while to get my risotto to the table. If you order risotto in
Verona do not expect to be served in 5 minutes. They take risotto seriously there
and it takes whatever time it takes: just be patient or order something else. While
you wait for the risotto to be served, you can enjoy some light appetizer and drink
some sparkling Prosecco. And by the way there is no such a thing as dipping oil in
the restaurants in Italy. After several minutes we were served a large dish of red
risotto. It was just wonderful! If you never tasted Strawberry risotto you will be
amazed. Naturally I asked for the recipe and of course they courteously refused.
I had to come up with my own recipe, and that was not a difficult problem to solve.
Risotto making is pretty standard. The only change I made from traditional risotto,
in this time of lean cuisine, I used olive oil instead of butter. Please feel free
to substitute olive oil for butter and add more parmigiano cheese if you like. But
please don’t use cream! The creaminess of the risotto comes from the starch of the
Italian rice. I used Arborio rice, as it is the simplest to cook and maintain ‘al
dente’. You can use Carnaroli for more body, or Vialone for a more ‘all’onda’ creamy
I prefer to add the strawberries in two batches, the fist at the beginning, finely
chopped, will dissolve while cooking the risotto. The second batch in larger chunks,
added almost at the end, will give consistency and sweetness. Remember that, contrary
to common belief, risotto doesn’t have to be stirred continuously for 20 minutes.
If stirred too much the rice skin will be broken and the risotto will result too
starchy. I like to add half of the broth at the beginning and stir occasionally.
Then, when the liquid is absorbed, add the rest a ladle at the time to control the
consistency of the risotto.
I have been making strawberry risotto for many years and every time I am asked the
same question: “You are making a sweet risotto?”. Strawberry risotto is not sweet!
Depending on the ripeness of the fruit, it will have a wonderful fruity-sour-sweet
tang. Prepare Strawberry risotto in spring and summer when the strawberries are at
their best, dig in, and enjoy.
Place the olive oil in a sauté pan on medium heat. When the oil is hot add the onion
and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add rice.
Stir until the rice is fully coated for about 2 minutes. Add the cognac. Let the
Stir in the chopped strawberries.
Add about half of the broth. Keep the rice to a simmer and stir occasionally to prevent
the rice from sticking to the pan.
When the broth is absorbed ...
... stir in the halved strawberries.
Add a ladle of broth and stir slowly keeping the rice at a “pasty” consistency. Add
the broth a little at the time to control the consistency of the risotto.
Taste the risotto. When the risotto is al dente, in about 22 to 25 minutes, cooked
but still firm to the bite, add the parmigiano cheese and stir vigorously for a minute.
Let the risotto rest for about 2 minutes before transferring to a serving dish. Decorate
with the reserved strawberries and serve hot.