This is it folks – the final post featuring Viva Italia 2013. Throughout this month long project or so, I’ve only put on a pound or two of weight, and if I had to blame it on this authentic Italian fare, it was worth every ounce. For this series, we covered Italian Savory Pies, Spaghetti alla Carbonara, Gnocchi, and an incredibly comforting Baked Polenta with 4 Cheeses; all made from the hands of our dear friend and native Italian, Paola. She is Pastor of The Family Church here in Neenah, Wisconsin where Viva Italia, the small church’s annual fundraiser, will take place this coming Friday. We wrap up coverage of this year’s Viva Italia with a dish that is synonymous with Italian flavor and comfort, Risotto al Pomodoro.
If you are reading this blog, it’s a very good chance you can name one or two people in your life who have impressed you as being one of “the best cooks” you have ever known. Personally, I can name a few. My late sister Ann could literally stop traffic on her street with the aromas of her prime rib dinners wafting out her kitchen window. The lasagna made by my sister-in-law’s mom will always be the gold standard to which all other lasagnas are compared, by every one who tasted hers.
In the same fashion as the two examples I cited above, there are few people who have ever cooked for me who have been able to demonstrate the natural culinary finesse that my friend Paola exhibits, so seamlessly and without any apparent effort. Paola is an artist in the kitchen. She literally would not know how to use a recipe if it was put in front of her.
Throughout this series featuring the foods she is preparing for Viva Italia, it was somewhat of a challenge from the beginning, to write in words and measure in cups and teaspoons what this woman puts into her pots and pans and then onto her serving platters. I am hoping that I can feature more authentic Italian dishes from Paola, all of which she brought with her from her native Italy decades ago.
As were the Italian Savory Pies
As was the Polenta with 4 Cheeses
Everyone of these creations, which started in Italy and ended up in the small kitchen of this soft-spoken and warmhearted Methodist pastor in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, are a winner in their own right. What’s more, everyone of them is “doable” in your own kitchen. Give them a try, and then give them a try again. Before too long, you – yourself, will be creating these dishes that through generations have come to be known as “real” Italian cooking.
Risotto al Pomodoro
- 12 oz. arborio rice
- 2 quarts broth
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 small red onion finely diced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt divided in pinches
- 1/4 cut fresh basil coarsely chopped
- 4 oz Parmesan cheese grated
- Heat broth, in large pot over medium heat, to a light boil then reduce heat to keep hot.
- In large saute pan over medium heat, place olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter
- Add onion to saute pan and stir until translucsent
- Add rice to onions and stir
- Add tomatoes and stir
- Add wine, reduce to half
- Gradually add broth, a ladle at a time till absorbed into rice, stir intermittently
- Add a pinch of salt between ladles of broth
- Continue to add broth while rice cooks, stirring and gently mashing tomatoes in mixture
- When rice is tender and broth absorbed, place in serving bowl
- Add remaining tablespoon butter and grated cheese. Stir and serve immediately.
Presentation and coordination of color in the food is very important
If you enjoy eating Italian food, learn how to pronounce it in Italian - it will taste even better!