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Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara, Illustrated

Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: Enjoy!

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: Enjoy!

Risotto alla Marinara is, as one might guess, a seafood risotto. Alfonso Borrelli, who cooks at the Osteria L’Antica Quercia in Barberino Valdelsa, uses clam broth and anchovies to add seafoody richness to his risotto alla marinara, while the main ingredients accompanying the rice are moscardini, a tiny variety of octopus, and radicchio rosso, a red radicchio from the Veneto, which confers pleasing bitter accents to the dish.

Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: What You'll Need

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: What You’ll Need

  • 320 g (A little more than 2 cups) Carnaroli rice — you could also use other short grained rices, e.g. Arborio
  • The leaves from a medium-sized head of radicchio, washed and dried
  • Clam broth — the broth from cooking clams for pasta sauce; he used 400 ml, or 1 3/5 cups
  • Half of a medium onion
  • 220 g (1/2 pound) Moscardini, which are tiny octopuses, simmered in lightly salted water until fork tender, about 30 minutes – you could also use tiny squid
  • Vegetable broth (see next picture; ingredients given below)
  • Parsley (not shown)
  • White wine
  • Olive oil
  • 4 canned anchovy fillets, rinsed
Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: Making Vegetable Broth

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: Making Vegetable Broth

Alfonso began by setting a pot with about 3 quarts of water to boil, adding to it a peeled onion, cut in half, a peeled carrot, and a washed and trimmed celery stick. The pot bubbled, and the water quickly became a pretty green. This sort of vegetable broth will work for almost any risotto, and will also be a nice addition to other dishes too.

Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: The Soffritto

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: The Soffritto

While the broth bubbled, Alfonso peeled the onion and chopped half of it. He used a red onion here, but his choice of onion varies with the season. He also chopped the anchovy fillets — he figures one fillet per person — and a bit less than a quarter cup of parsley. When he was done chopping, he heated about a third of a cup of olive oil in a broad skillet and sautéed the minced herbs, pressing down with the back of the spoon to break up the chopped anchovy, which disappears into the oil.

It is important, he says, to turn down the heat some (the flame was still fairly brisk) upon adding the onion, and to watch it carefully, because it burns easily.

Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: Sautéing the Rice

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: Sautéing the Rice

Alfonso then added the rice and toasted it over a brisk flame for about three minutes, shaking the pan deftly to shift it about and keep it from burning.

Next, a cup of dry white wine, with further deft shakes until it has evaporated.

Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: Adding Clam Broth

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: Adding Clam Broth

At this point Alfonso added the clam broth, which imparts the freshness of the sea, and said the risotto would be ready in 17-18 minutes.

He used the broth from fresh live clams that he then adds to fish-based pasta sauces, for example allo scoglio sauce, but you could also use the broth from frozen clams, setting them aside for another recipe that doesn’t call for clam broth, for example fried clams.

Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: Chopping Moscardini

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: Chopping Moscardini

While the risotto was simmering, Alfonso finely julienned the radicchio leaves, setting aside some for garnishing, and then looked over the moscardini, selected four pretty ones and set them aside, and chopped the rest.

While he was doing this, he kept an eye on the risotto, and when the clam broth had been mostly absorbed (the risotto becomes a creamy yellow thanks to the clam broth, oil, and anchovies), added a large brimming ladle of vegetable broth, giving the pan a deft shake to stir it in.

Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: Adding Moscardini

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: Adding Moscardini

When the rice had absorbed most of the liquid Alfonso stirred in the chopped Moscardini.

Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: Adding Radicchio

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: Adding Radicchio

Alfonso then added most of the Radicchio — he decided all was too much, and says to go by eye — and stirred again, tasting the rice and adding another ladle of broth.

Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: Simmer...

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: Simmer…

“When the final ladle is absorbed,” Alfonso says, “the risotto will be about done, and you should check seasoning.”

He didn’t add salt, because there was salt from the anchovies, and also a little from the moscardini, or pepper, but did add a little minced parsley to provide flavor and color.

At this point he sprinkled a little olive oil over the risotto, and cooked it for two minutes more.

While doing this, he also put the four moscardini he had set aside to warm in a bowl of hot water.

Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: Enjoy!

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: Enjoy!

Next comes the plating: Alfonso divvied the risotto onto four plates, garnished it with a little radicchio, set one of the reserved moscardini atop each mound of risotto, drizzled a little olive oil over each, and his risotto alla marinara was ready.

And good, too. We drank a Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo with it, and the combination was very fine.

This recipe on a shorter page

How to make Risotto, Illustrated

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Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara, A Rich Seafood Risotto

Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: Enjoy!

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: Enjoy!

Risotto alla Marinara is, as you might guess, a seafood risotto. Alfonso Borrelli, who cooks at the Osteria L’Antica Quercia in Barberino Valdelsa, uses clam broth and anchovies to add seafoody richness to his risotto alla marinara, while the main ingredients accompanying the rice are moscardini, a tiny variety of octopus, and radicchio rosso, a red radicchio from the Veneto, which confers pleasing bitter accents to the dish.

  • 320 g (A little more than 2 cups) Carnaroli rice — you could also use other short grained rices, e.g. Arborio
  • The leaves from a medium-sized head of radicchio, washed and dried
  • Clam broth — the broth from cooking clams for pasta sauce; Alfonso used 400 ml, or 1 3/5 cups
  • Half of a medium onion
  • 220 g (1/2 pound) Moscardini (tiny octopuses), simmered in lightly salted water until fork tender, about 30 minutes – you could also use tiny squid
  • Vegetable broth (see below)
  • Parsley
  • White wine
  • Olive oil
  • 4 canned anchovy fillets, rinsed

Alfonso began by setting a pot with about 3 quarts of water to boil, adding to it a peeled onion, cut in half, a carrot, peeled, and a celery stick, washed. It bubbled, and quickly became a pretty green. This sort of vegetable broth will work for almost any risotto, and will also be a nice addition to other dishes too.

While the broth bubbled, Alfonso peeled the onion and chopped half of it. He used a red onion in this case, but his choice of onion varies with the season. He also chopped the anchovy fillets — he figures one fillet per person — and a bit less than a quarter cup of parsley.

When he was done chopping, he heated about a third of a cup of olive oil in a broad skillet and sautéed the minced herbs, pressing down with the back of the spoon to break up the chopped anchovy, which disappeared into the oil.

It is important, he says, to turn down the heat some (the flame was still fairly brisk) upon adding the onion, and to watch it carefully, because it burns easily.

Alfonso's Risotto alla Marinara: Sautéing the Rice

Alfonso’s Risotto alla Marinara: Sautéing the Rice

Alfonso then added the rice and toasted it over a brisk flame for about three minutes, shaking the pan deftly to shift it about and keep it from burning.

Next, a cup of dry white wine, with further deft shakes until it had evaporated.

At this point Alfonso added the clam broth, which imparts the freshness of the sea, and said the risotto would be ready in 17-18 minutes.

He used the broth from fresh live clams that he then adds to fish-based pasta sauces, for example allo scoglio sauce, but you could also use the broth from frozen clams, setting them aside for another recipe that doesn’t call for clam broth, for example fried clams.

While the risotto was simmering, Alfonso finely julienned the radicchio leaves, setting aside some for garnishing, and then looked over the moscardini, selected four pretty ones and set them aside, and chopped the rest.

While he was doing this, he kept an eye on the risotto, and when the clam broth had been mostly absorbed (the risotto becomes a creamy yellow thanks to the clam broth, oil, and anchovies), added two large brimming ladles of vegetable broth, giving the pan a deft shake to stir it in.

When the liquid had been mostly absorbed Alfonso stirred in the chopped Moscardini.

He then added most of the Radicchio — he decided all was too much, and says to go by eye — and stirred again, tasting and adding another ladle of broth.

“When the final ladle is absorbed,” he says, “the risotto will be about done, and you should check seasoning.” He didn’t add salt, because there was salt from the anchovies, and also a little from the moscardini, or pepper, but did add a little minced parsley to provide flavor and color, sprinkled a little olive oil over the risotto, and cooked it for two minutes more.

While doing this, he also put the four moscardini he had set aside to warm in a bowl of hot water.

Next comes the plating: Alfonso divvied the risotto onto four plates, garnished it with a little radicchio, set one of the reserved moscardini atop each mound of risotto, drizzles a little olive oil over each, and his risotto alla marinara was ready. And good, too.

This recipe, Illustrated

How to Make Risotto, Illustrated

Risotto coi Gamberetti, Or Shrimp Risotto

Risotto Coi Gamberetti, With Shrimp

Risotto Coi Gamberetti, With Shrimp

Elisabetta and I once had a terrible argument while we were making this. Neither of us remember what we were fighting over, but we both remember the risotto.

  • 3/4 pound fresh or frozen shrimp
  • 1 1/2 cups short-grained rice such as Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 rib of celery
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 vegetable bullion cube
  • 1 quart (1 liter) water
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, warmed, or a sprinkling of vodka
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • 1/2 cup boiled peas (optional)

Set the water to boil with the celery, garlic, laurel, and a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, wash the shrimp well in cold running water. Add the shrimp to the stock and bring to a boil; let cook for two minutes (if you have to use canned shrimp, add just their liquid to the broth).

Strain out the shrimp, reserving the liquid. As soon as the shrimp have cooled, peel them and return the shells to the pot. Let them boil for about fifteen minutes, then strain the broth and return it to the fire, adding the vegetable bullion.

Vegetable Stock, Simmering

Vegetable Stock, Simmering

Sauté the onion in half the butter. As soon as the onion’s a golden translucent color, remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon. Next, stir in the rice and sauté, stirring, until the grains have turned translucent, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the warmed wine and cook until it has evaporated, then begin adding the hot broth, a ladle at a time. Continue adding broth till the rice is half cooked, then stir in the shrimp and finish cooking the rice, adding broth as necessary, and stirring carefully not to break the shrimp. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente. Check seasoning, cover the risotto for two minutes, and serve.

A wine? Bubbly, and I would go with either Franciacorta or Trento DOC.

Note: If you want a richer risotto, stir in a half a cup of cream just before you let it sit. Or, if peas are in season and you like them, boil a half cup separately, and stir them in just before the risotto’s done.

Serves four to six.

How to make risotto, illustrated