- Servings: 6.
On my first visit to Italy my then boyfriend, now husband, and I had a memorable meal at a small restaurant alongside Florence's Arno River. We had arrived early for our reservation and the chef, who had lived for several years in California and loved to visit with Americans, came out of the kitchen to talk with us. He discovered that neither my husband nor I had ever had risotto.
On his menu that night was a risotto made with radishes. Being ignorant about risottos, it didn't occur to either of us that this was an unusual combination, although I've come to appreciate that risottos can be made with almost any vegetable, meat or seafood. The chef brought us plates of his slightly pink rice dish, creamy yet without any cream, and flavored with Parmesan's nuttiness and a fresh radish taste that had been mellowed by being cooked along with the rice.
I fell in love on that trip with my husband, with risotto, and with the country that invented it and I've since become practiced in making this iconic Italian dish. Because Arborio rice needs to be cooked gradually -- its thick shell absorbs liquids in small amounts -- anything that's cooked along with it also becomes transformed. In this recipe, the radishes remain firm but lose their crispy hardness to have a texture more like that of a water chestnut. Their peppery flavor also softens, and the red skin can lend a soft pink tint to the rice.
I like to add a handful of little raw radish matchsticks at the very end. Besides adding an attractive red and white garnish, the little bits of raw radish flavor are a good counterpart to the risotto's mellow taste.
- 4 cups chicken stock combined with 2 cups water
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
- 1 1/2 cup fresh, raw red radishes, trimmed of root and stem and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup raw radishes cut into tiny matchsticks (do this by slicing 2 or 3 radishes into 1/8-inch slices and then cut these into tiny sticks)
- In a saucepan combine the chicken stock and water and bring to a low simmer. Keep the stock hot but not boiling while cooking the risotto. Have a soup ladle ready to use.
- In a large sauté pan or skillet, add the olive oil and 3 tablespoons of the butter and place over a medium heat until the butter melts.
- Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the radishes, stir to combine with the onion and garlic so that everything is coated with the hot olive oil and butter and the radishes become slightly faded in color, about 2 minutes.
- Add the rice, stir to combine so that each grain of rice is coated with the hot olive oil and butter and becomes opaque, about 2 minutes.
- Raise the heat to medium high, add the wine and cook, stirring until the wine is absorbed.
- Add one soup ladle of hot chicken stock (about 1 cup), stirring until absorbed.
- Continue adding the hot stock, a cup at a time, stirring until absorbed before adding more, until the rice is almost tooth tender; you should use nearly all the stock. This will take about 15 minutes. Keep the heat at medium high and stir continuously.
- If the rice is still too firm, add more chicken stock. If you have used all the chicken stock, add hot water, a half-cup at a time, stirring until it's absorbed, and until the rice is tender but still firm.
- Remove from the heat and add a pinch of salt, several grinds of black pepper, the remaining 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, and the grated Parmesan, stirring to combine.
- Scatter the raw radish matchsticks over the top of the risotto as a garnish.
- Serve immediately.