September:Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

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Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto finish 2 with script- Copy

Buon giorno!

With fall upon us, we turn our attention to heartier dishes, vegetables, and flavors that remind us of home and comfort. Butternut Squash is one of the vegetables that seem to relate to this time of year. Its sweetness and richness upon roasting put us in that “zone” we think of as satisfying and just like Mama used to make. Risotto and Butternut Squash are one of those matches made in heaven, and Risotto Al Zucca is a signature dish of the Northern regions of Italy most notably Lombardia.

With ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO, we take this great authentic dish to another level by roasting the squash and enhancing the dish with a couple of different ingredients. Satisfying the “itch” for that great flavor combo, sweet and savory, this dish fills that need perfectly. Our savory flavors of the squash, sage, broth, onion, and parmigiano are matched with the sweetness of the roasted version of the squash and the addition of a finish or garnish of Balsamic Glaze, Candied Walnuts, and Ricotta.

BOOM! That, my friends, is an explosive combination which entertains your palate in a way I cannot clearly describe. This is a flavor load not to be believed.

This is a dish that served in a smaller amount as a first course sets the stage for a great fall menu of roasted meats perhaps. Regardless of how you follow this course – this starter will definitely inform the guests at your Italian table that they are in for a very special meal indeed!

However, if you prefer to make this dish the main event, it is hearty enough to stand up and out as a comforting entrée that ushers in the memories of fall meals past and the season of bountiful ingredients and flavors to come.

This dish will simply bring you boundless return!

…and now, a drum roll please…


(with Candied Walnuts and Ricotta!!)

You can make your Candied Walnuts days ahead if you like and also roast the squash ahead of time.

Serves: 4 as entrée or 6 as a first course

Prep/Cook: about an hour

Candied Walnuts

This recipe makes about a cup although you will not use them all in this recipe. Save the rest for salads – yum!

In a pan, place 1 cup of walnut halves or pieces, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. Butter, and a dash of Cayenne Pepper. (2 dashes for more spice!)

Candied Walnuts 1

Heat and let the sugar melt in, while stirring constantly – takes just a couple of minutes.

Candied Walnuts 2

When melted and well covered, pour the walnuts onto parchment paper or wax paper and quickly spread the mixture out with a spatula. This hardens almost instantly. When cool, break into small pieces and store in a covered container.

Roasted Butternut Squash

Toss 3 cups cubed Butternut Squash with some Olive Oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Spread this out on a sheet pan and bake/roast at 400 degrees for about 15- 20 minutes until just fork tender, turning with a spoon about 1/2 way through. You can do this ahead also.

Set aside.



1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice

2 Tbsp. Butter

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 chopped sweet onion

6 –7 Cups WARM Chicken Broth (can substitute vegetable broth)- you might not use it all

2 Tbsp. Chopped Sage

1/3 Cup Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese

2 Tbsp. Butter

The roasted butternut squash from instructions above

Several Candied Walnuts – instructions above

Chopped Fresh Sage for garnish

4 heaping Tablespoons of Whole Milk Ricotta, beaten a little with a spoon to make fluffy

Balsamic Glaze or reduction of Balsamic Vinegar


Heat the butter and olive oil in a wide shallow pan (best for risotto). Add the chopped onion and cook at medium – medium high for 5 minutes.


Then add the rice – Cook another 5 minutes tossing to coat in the butter and oil.


Begin to add the warm broth with a large ladle – one ladle at a time, letting the rice absorb each addition before adding the next. This process can take about 30 minutes or more.

Add the chopped sage during this process.

You know you are finished when the rice is tender to the bite and creamy.

When rice is finished cooking, turn off the heat. Add the grated cheese and the additional butter. Stir in.

Add the roasted squash and toss gently.

Beat the ricotta a little with the back of a spoon to make it fluffy. Add several dollops of this to the risotto or 1 to each individual serving, letting each guest stir it in.

Add the candied walnuts.

Garnish with additional fresh sage and drizzle with a little Balsamic Glaze.

Butternut Squash Risotto finish 3 with script- Copy

This ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO is so flavorful and rich, you will make it your go-to fall dish! This one is special!


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Risotto with Greens

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Risotto with Greens finish with script

Buon giorno!

Although risotto is more frequently thought of as a Northern Italian dish, the other regions of Italy have their favorite preparations of this dish. RISOTTO WITH GREENS is one such traditional preparation from Tuscany. It may seem to be a healthier alternative, with the addition of greens, in particular swiss chard, but it is no less tasty. This is a hearty vegetarian risotto not to be overlooked.

More often, this dish is considered for spring because of its use of spring greens. These days, with so many of the greens available all year long, we can enjoy the dish anytime. The Tuscans are known for gathering a number of different kinds of greens in the spring – arugula, dandelions etc. Actually though, any of your favorite greens can be used for this risotto. I have used swiss chard here because I simply love it for its tenderness and sweetness. (Either rainbow or silverbeet is fine.) You can also use spinach, broccoli raab, or the spring dandelions, chicory, or arugula. Even kale is an option. You choose!

As a tasty partner for this vegetarian risotto, I have added an idea for a quick and easy chicken recipe using Marsala. The addition of the chicken thighs, cooked quickly in Marsala wine offers a delightful flavor pairing. With or without the chicken – you will love this risotto!


Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 45-50 minutes


1/4 c. Olive Oil

1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice – traditional for risotto

1 Onion chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely

5 Cups Greens: swiss chard as used here, or any other green of your choice (about 1 1/4 lb)

6-8 Oz. Wild Mushrooms ( or regular white button mushrooms, if you prefer)

6 Cups Warm Vegetable Broth

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 Cup Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Clean the greens well with cold water and drain well.

Risotto with Greens 1

Cook the onion, greens, and mushrooms for 5 minutes in the olive oil. It will appear that the amount of greens is huge but they cook down a lot.

Risotto with Greens 2

Add garlic and cook another minute.

Risotto with Greens 3

Add the rice and cook another 5 minutes, tossing and coating with the oil.

Risotto with Greens 4

Heat the broth so that it will be warm when ready to add it to the risotto without reducing the temperature of the ingredients.

Begin to add the warm broth a large ladle at a time allowing the liquid to cook off before adding the next ladle. Make sure to continue to stir as the liquid disappears. The rice will swell.

Continue this procedure of adding the broth slowly until all of the broth has been absorbed and the rice is tender to the bite.

Risotto with Greens 5

Turn off the heat, and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Then add the grated cheese and incorporate.

Drizzle each serving with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and serve with plenty of grated cheese.

If you decide to pair the risotto with the chicken – see below for the recipe.


Serves 4

Prep: 35 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes


4 skinless and boneless chicken thighs

Salt and pepper

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Marsala Wine

1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley


Season the thighs with salt and pepper on both sides.

Place oil in the pan and heat.

Add the seasoned thighs and sear on each side.

Add the parsley and Marsala.

Risotto with Greens - chicken 1

Cover and cook at a strong simmer for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally during the cooking process.

The wine will cook off, and the thighs will glaze and acquire a lovely color and sheen.

Risotto with Greens - chicken 2

Serve along side of the RISOTTO WITH GREENS for a great authentic Tuscan meal.


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October: Risotto With Seafood Sauce

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Risotto Seafood finish 1 with script

Buon giorno!

There is nothing better than an Italian Seafood Sauce well prepared. It has so many uses – risotto, pasta etc. Today’s RISOTTO WITH SEAFOOD SAUCE is a great representation of the Italian Seafood Sauce at its very best – prepared with fresh clams, shrimp, and crab.

Often you will see this sauce as “alla scoglio” which means of the rocks or in the style of the rocks. This refers to the use of seafood which lives in the rocks of the Mediterranean – clams, shrimp, crab, and sometimes mussels, crab, or lobster. This sauce preparation is found throughout the coastal areas of Italy – claimed by the North and the South.

As always – good ingredients wins the day with this sauce – fresh clams, crab, and shrimp and fresh herbs!

The sauce captures the essence of the sea in the “creatures” you choose to put into it. The aroma is distinctively Mediterranean. When you prepare it, you may even want to play the songs of the coastal fishermen in the background for extra ambience. You know the ones – “Santa Lucia”, “Torna a Surriento”, “Vieni Sul Mar”…

My father, Attilio, would often sing as he cooked. He sang the traditional songs of Italy and seemed to choose them according to what he prepared. I can still hear him..

“Vide’o mare quant’ e bello, spira tantu sentimento…”


Seafood sauce with script

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes


2 Cloves Fresh Garlic

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 28 oz. Can San Marzano Tomatoes ( this is a type of tomato, not a brand – the very best)

2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley Chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Basil

1 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/2 Cup Clam juice

1/2 Cup Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth

1 lb. Cleaned Shrimp, shells removed

2 Dozen Littleneck Clams, shells scrubbed

8 Oz. Lump Crabmeat (Lump or Jumbo Lump is best)


Cook the garlic in the oil a minute – do not burn!

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, clam juice and wine.

Cook at medium to medium high bubbling until much of the liquid cooks off – about 30 minutes.

Add shrimp and clams  –  cook about 10 minutes or a couple of minutes more until all shells have opened. Discard any clams that do not open.

Risotto with Seafood Sauce

Seafood sauce


Risotto for seafood sauce

Serves: 4

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 45 minutes approx.


2 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice

3 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion – chopped

1/2 Cup Dry White Wine

6 Cups Liquid: 5 Cups chicken broth, 1 cup Clam Juice

Pinch of Saffron Threads

2 Tbsp. Butter

1/4 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano Grated

Fresh Basil for garnish


Warm your broth and clam juice and add the saffron threads to the liquid, crushing them with your fingers a little before adding.

Melt butter in oil, and add the onion and stir, cooking at medium high about 5 minutes.

Add rice to the pan. Stir the rice and coat well – cooking for about 5 minutes.

Now add the wine, stir and let it cook down.

Continuing at medium high heat, add about a cup of the warm broth and clam juice with the saffron to the pan and continue to stir. When most of the liquid is gone add another  1/2 cup and stir. Continue adding the liquid by the same amount until you use all of it, slowly stirring as you add. Once the liquid is gone and cooks into the rice, it should be done.

Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and then the cheese. The risotto is ready and should be a beautiful golden color from the saffron threads.

TO SERVE: Spoon some of the hot sauce over each bowl of risotto along with some clams and shrimp. Top with some of the Lump Crab and fresh basil.

There is no better pairing with RISOTTO WITH SEAFOOD SAUCE than a crisp Terradora di Paolo Falanghina from Campania – an Italian white wine that was just made for seafood! “Vieni sul mar…”


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Lemon Risotto with Shrimp

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Lemon Risotto with Shrimp - finish with script

Buon giorno!

Yeah, yeah, yeah – Risotto and Shrimp – NOT!!! This LEMON RISOTTO WITH SHRIMP is something a little different. If you like lemon – this one is for you. The lemon flavor permeates every bite with one added surprise – Limoncello.

Limoncello, the lemon liqueur from the Amalfi Coast found in most liquor stores, is an unexpected ingredient here. Usually, lemony and sweet, it is used in desserts and served after dinner. However, when used in very small amounts, as it is here, it adds a very subtle underlying sweetness that does not interfere with the flavors of the dish and actually enhances the experience. It is that extra something that no one can quite identify! It demonstrates the value of not over using an ingredient.

The addition of the Limoncello is optional. Without it, you have a lovely lemon risotto – but without that certain inexplicable essence that makes this dish something more –  a stand out.

A word about ingredients: Cooking really good Italian food is mostly dependent on one thing – ingredients! Your food will always reflect what you put in it. Risotto is a good example. If you use mostly fresh ingredients, good olive oil, the proper short grain Italian rice, warm broth, and good Italian cheese – your Risotto will be far better than one that cuts corners or substitutes quality.

This is a beautiful dish that you will love serving as a main course or as a first course in a smaller amount. Either way – you will win hearts at your Italian table!


Serves: 4 as a main course

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: about 40 minutes


3 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Medium Onion – chopped

2 C. Arborio Rice (short grain Italian rice used for risotto – long grain rice does not yield the same result)

1/2 C. Vermouth

3 Tbsp. Limoncello – optional

Juice of a fresh lemon

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Zest

5 1/2-6 Cups WARM Chicken Broth (always use warm broth for risotto)

1 C. Peas (can be fresh or frozen – if frozen, do not defrost – do not use canned)

1 lb. Fresh Raw Shrimp, peeled and cleaned

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil – chopped

1/4 C. Mascarpone Cheese (Italian cream cheese – do not substitute)

2 Tbsp. additional Butter

1/2 C. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano – or Montasio Cheese

Fresh Chopped Basil for garnish


Place the butter and oil in a large shallow pan and melt butter.

Add the onion and cook 5 minutes and medium high.

Lemon Risotto - Shrimp 1

Add the rice and cook another 5 minutes, stirring to coat all of the rice kernels.

Lemon Risotto - Shrimp 2

Pour in the wine, Limoncello, Lemon Juice and zest.

Lemon Risotto - Shrimp 3 jpg

Cook down for a couple of minutes until the wine is absorbed.

Now begin to add the warm broth – about a cup or a large ladle at a time. Let each addition of broth be absorbed before adding the next one – all the while stirring.

When you are more than 1/2 way through adding the broth – add the peas, shrimp, and basil.

Lemon Risotto- Shrimp 6

Continue to stir and add the broth as each addition absorbs until the rice is tender to the bite.

Then turn off the heat and add the Mascarpone – stir in and let melt.

Lemon Risotto-Shrimp 7

Then follow with the grated Parmigiano  – stir in. Then add the 2 tbsp. additional butter. Melt in.

Lemon Risotto-Shrimp 8

Garnish with fresh chopped Basil.

Your LEMON RISOTTO WITH SHRIMP is finished and ready to eat! Risotto is always best served right away. I would recommend a beautiful crisp Falanghina for your wine pairing.


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Risotto with Grilled Corn

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Buon giorno!

I love all types of risotto! But—if I could share only one risotto recipe with you this year it would be RISOTTO WITH GRILLED CORN. This is the one, folks!

Why? This risotto just hits all the marks with me. It is easy. You can grill your corn ahead, if you want to. It is the creamiest risotto I have had, and for some unknown reason, it is fun to make. The flavor is mild, smooth, and sweet with the natural sugars in the corn breaking through when charred. It is just a beautiful risotto in every way – one that is different and unexpected. We LOVE it at our house!

Serving: It is great on its own as a meal in itself. Even so, it provides a great platform for things like roasted or grilled shrimp – which might be my personal favorite way to serve it. Pan seared sea scallops are delicious with it as well.

Rules are made to be broken—well sometimes: With this risotto, I break my cardinal rule of “no cream in risotto”. I make an exception for this one, and there is a reason. I don’t really cook the cream into it. Risotto should be creamy on its own, and usually needs no further assistance. I add the cream at the end – just 1/2 cup for the entire dish – in this case, 4 servings. You can omit it, if you want to, but it really adds something. It has to do with the corn itself. The corn and its sweetness is enhanced by the addition almost giving the dish a creamed corn favor. The combination of the  cream with the sweet natural sugars, the smoky char on the corn kernels, coming together with the butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano that just seems logical and almost necessary to round out the dish and taking it from “just risotto” to something very special.

Thus, I make the rules here – so I guess I can break them, and I think you’ll be glad I did!

This risotto is just too good to wait for – so let’s go!


Makes: 4 servings

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes


4 Large fresh ears of corn OR 5 small ears

Olive Oil for brushing corn

Salt and Pepper

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 Tbsp. Butter

1 Medium Onion – chopped

2 C. Arborio Rice

About 7 C. Chicken or Vegetable Broth – warm

3 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Sage

3/4 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese + extra to serve with the finished dish

3 Tbsp. Butter

1/2 C. Warm Cream

Extra Fresh Sage for garnish


Remove the husks from your corn ears and clean off the corn silk. Brush each ear with olive oil and sprinkle each with salt and pepper.

Grill the corn, turning the ears as they char. You want the corn to get the dark grill marks. The process takes about 10-15 minutes.

Corn 6

Then let the ears cool until they can be handled easily.

Corn 7

When the corn is cool, stand each ear on end on a cutting surface and scrape the kernels off the ears with a sharp knife cutting or sawing from the top of the ear downward. Turn the ear and repeat until all of the kernels have been removed. Do this for each ear of corn. Discard the empty ears. You can do this ahead, if you like and refrigerate. Just make sure the corn is room temperature to add to the risotto.

Corn 8

Begin your risotto by melting the butter in a wide surface pan or pot along with the olive oil. At a medium high heat, add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring about 5 minutes.

Corn 1

Add your Arborio Rice and stir well, cooking for another 5 minutes.

Corn 2

How begin the process of ladling in the warm broth beginning with about a cup. After you add some broth, continue to cook and stir. The idea is to get the rice to slowly absorb the warm liquid. Let each addition of broth be absorbed before adding the next. Do not let the mixture become dry. Continue to do this until all the broth is used and absorbed – takes 20-25 minutes approximately.

Corn 3

During the last 10 minutes of adding the broth – when you have about 2 cups left to go, add your grilled corn kernels and sage. Stir in well and finish adding the broth.

Corn 4

When risotto is just tender and broth is gone – turn off the heat. Add the grated cheese and butter. Mix well, melting the butter.

Then pour in the warm cream and incorporate. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Corn 5

Garnish with fresh sage and serve immediately with extra grated cheese.

Serve this gorgeous RISOTTO WITH GRILLED CORN as a meal – mono piatto – with a lovely Langhe Arneisor with roasted/grilled shrimp or seared scallops and a crisp Falanghina.


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Risotto Al Vino Rosso and Elk Roast

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Buon giorno!

If you have followed this website and my newsletter in the past few weeks, you will have “journeyed” all over the map of Italy, experiencing Christmas traditions and dishes from many regions. You’ll note the differences but feel the similarities in that Christmas in Italy is a time for family. It is said “Natale con i tuoi, pascqua con chi vuoi?” The idea behind this quote is  – you have Christmas with your family and Easter with anybody else! Tuscan tradition offers the Italian example of enjoying one’s family through its celebratory holiday dishes. We will herald one such dish, RISOTTO AL VINO ROSSO, (Red Wine Risotto), meatless by itself, but often served with game. Here I have paired this flavorful risotto with an American game favorite, ELK ROAST- much as the Tuscans might do with their native fruits of the hunt.

The Christmas season in Tuscany coincides with the hunting season so prominent in this region. Tuscans are well known throughout Italy and the world for their superb game dishes. The holiday season is a time when these dishes appear front and center – often at the Christmas lunch or Cenone. You’ll find game birds of all kinds like pheasants, guinea hens, etc and rabbit, as well as venison or the famous wild boar. The roast is often the thing at this meal! When it’s not game, it might be porchetta. This is the time when families showcase their best at the table.

Accompanying the game or roast, you might find boiled meats, savory cheeses, pickled vegetables and olives for antipasti. The best of the Extra Virgins and Tartufi (truffles) make the scene. Soup is served in the form of minestra or pasta in brodo. The meal lasts for hours ending with fruits, nuts, Panettone, Pandoro, or the famous Panforte di Siena along with Vin Santo. Chianti or Brunello di Montalcino are often the choices for wine.

The RISOTTO AL VINO ROSSO is a most lovely example of Tuscan cuisine. The color of the rice derives its color from the wine used to make it and appears to take on a lovely pink or almost reddish tone. The flavor of the wine permeates the rice, giving it greater depth than the your usual risotto. I suggest using a full bodied red wine like perhaps Chianti Riserva ( with its oaky nature), Brunello, Amarone, or Salice Salentino for this dish. The more full and lusty the wine – so goes the risotto. It is a beautiful dish as well as amazingly delicious. To me, it cries out for fresh sage, if you have it. While I have paired it with the meat, it is also lovely served on its own without any meat.

The perfect accompaniment for this risotto is a robust meat – like the ELK ROAST that I have chosen. It is typical of the game roast the Tuscans might choose. Elk is not as strong tasting or lean as venison. It has a beautiful lighter flavor and doesn’t need an intense infusion of fat like the deer meat. I was so fortunate to have been the recipient of a great New Mexican elk roast from the recent hunting trip of my daughter-in-law’s father, Bill – a true Southern gentleman, great hunter and lover of the wild. It was just meant to be that this roast and this wonderful risotto would and should be featured as our Tuscan Christmas dish.

For the preparation for ELK ROAST, I decided to treat it as I might cook a pot roast. Elk, I understand, fares best under the conditions of long, low, and slow cooking. You could use a slow cooker for the dish, although I did not here. When elk is cooked at too high a temperature and for too long, it will dry out. I remembered my recipe for Carbonade di Valle D’Aosta , a pot roast style beef dish from the Italian Alpine region and thought this might be just the right ticket. It was a correct assumption, I think, as the elk meat was tender and took well to the spices in the cooking liquid. It was really superb with the risotto. Keep in mind though – that while not everyone has Bill to bag an elk for them – a nice beef chuck roast would suit the recipe as well!

Here it is – a Christmas afternoon Cenone in the Tuscan hills – fit for the holiday, but suitable for any time!


First: The Risotto Al Vino Rosso (Red Wine Risotto)

(can be served without the meat)

Serves: 4-6

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: about 25 minutes


6 cups Chicken Broth (warm)- can use vegetable stock

3 Tbsp. Butter

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion – chopped

2 C. Arborio Rice

1 1/4 c. Red Wine (full bodied wine preferable)

1 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese- grated

2 Tbsp. Butter

(Fresh Sage is a good garnish)


Keep the broth warm in a pot. You always add warm broth to risotto.

Cook the onion in the oil and butter – about 4 minutes.

Risotto - onions

Add the rice and stir well for about another 4 minutes at medium high heat.

Risotto - rice

Now add some wine and a ladle full of broth. Stir constantly, as the rice absorbs the liquid. Do not let the rice dry out – but when the liquid is absorbed, continue with adding some wine and the broth by the ladle until you use all of it, letting the rice absorb the liquid before adding more. The process takes about 25 minutes.

Your risotto, when finished, should be tender, but slightly firm to the bite.

At this point, turn off the heat and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Then add the butter. Stir until melted and incorporated.

Serve immediately and garnish with fresh sage if you like.


(Can use a beef chuck roast)

Elk Roast

Serves: 4-6

Prep:  15-20 minutes

Cook: about 3 hours until tender


3 1/2 lb. Elk Roast (can substitute venison or beef – If venison add more salt pork than directed)

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Cloves Chopped Fresh Garlic

1 Onion sliced thinly

3 oz. (1/4 lb) Salt Pork – chopped

2 Bay Leaves

3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary

3 Whole Cloves

1/2 Tsp. Allspice

2 Tsp. Brown Sugar

1 Large slice of Orange Peel (Rind)

1 C. Red Wine

1 C. Beef Broth

Several peeled baby carrots – as many as you like.

1 Stalk Celery cut in a few pieces

Salt and Pepper as needed


In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the salt pork just a few minutes to render the fat. Then add the onions and garlic.

Elk 2

Cook 3-4 minutes, and add the roast.

Brown it on all sides.

Elk 3

Now add the Bay Leaves, herbs, cloves, allspice, brown sugar, and orange peel.

Elk 1

Pour in the wine and broth. Stir and turn the roast in the liquid to coat.

Add the carrots and celery.

Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer on top of the stove for about 3 hours – until the roast is very tender. Turn the roast in the liquid several times during the cooking process.

Let it sit about 15 minutes before carving to seal in the juices.

Remove the bay leaves and discard before serving.

Strain the juices and reserve the carrots for serving.

At this point you can make a gravy in the usual way by making a roux or a paste of flour and butter and adding it to the juices, OR you can serve the roast in the strained pan juices, which is the way I like it. Serve this meat with plenty of the cooking liquid, as it helps to keep the meat moist.

Don’t wait for holidays to serve this wonderful meal of RISOTTO AL VINO ROSSO AND ELK ROAST. It is just too good to have once a year!


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June: Risotto With Fresh Clams

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Clams Amalfi Style-

Clams Risotto16

Buon giorno!

The summer season is upon us and what better way to celebrate than with shellfish – more specifically CLAMS! But here’s a new twist on an old theme – RISOTTO WITH FRESH CLAMS! I like to call it Clams Amalfi Style. Everyone knows the classic Linguine Alle Vongole. This is a little different.

The sea-scented broth created by the clams offers a beautiful base for risotto just as it does for spaghetti or linguine. The flavor is almost intoxicating, and the colors in this dish are bright and vivid. Close your eyes and breathe in the aroma, letting your senses float to the Amalfi Coast. One can only imagine dining on the day’s catch among the famous lemon trees of the region, as the breezes drift in from the sea. Ahhhhh…

Wake up!! Attenzione! It’s time to give some attention to the distinctive elements this dish will bring to your table.The interesting thing about this particular preparation is that the recipe offers you two different uses for the same dish! The first is obvious – a delicious risotto and clams as an entrée presentation. The second is a stand alone appetizer or even main course using the clams alone, served with a crusty bread for dunking in the broth and served without the risotto. You often see mussels served this way, but not as often clams. They are delicious, attractive, and truly a gift from the sea.

An added benefit: Clams are very high in iron and can be a good source of this mineral in your diet. Healthy and delicious? You can’t lose!

The goods: For this recipe, I like to use a sweet tomato like the grape tomato. You can also use Campari Tomatoes. The grape variety is especially sweet and blends well with the briny nature of the clam juices. Plan to cook your clams first, as you’ll want to use some of the broth to make your risotto. Also plan on about 8-9 clams per person when making this with risotto and about a dozen per person when serving the clams alone. I like the addition of the sliced fennel in this and the touch of the optional Sambuca or Pernod. This gives the dish a slight hint of Provence or a Mediterranean stew.

Guarantee: You will love this so much – you’ll be making it with and without the risotto all summer long. There is nothing better than taking a steaming pot of the clams outdoors on a warm summer night to enjoy with your favorite white wine. Join me soon On the Patio for a pot of these lovelies and a crisp Falanghina!


(Risotto Alle Vongole)

FIRST: the clams!

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: About 10 minutes


4 Tbsp. Butter

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Bulbs Sliced Fennel + 2 Fennel Fronds ( the fuzzy green stuff attached to the bulb) – for a quick lesson on slicing fennel click: HEREon my Roast Chicken post.

5 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped finely

2 c. Fresh Grape Tomatoes – sliced in halves

1 c. Dry White Wine

Pinch of Saffron dissolved in the white wine

1 tsp. Sambuca or Pernod (optional)

1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

3 Dozen Fresh Clams (Cherrystone is a good one here)

2 Tbsp. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley – chopped

3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

Salt and pepper as needed

1 Tbsp. Fresh lemon juice

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling before serving


Important – scrub your clams with a brush before using.

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Cook the garlic and fennel for a couple of minutes in the butter and oil. Then add the tomatoes. Cook about 5-6 minutes.

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Add the sliced tomatoes and cook covered for about 5 minutes at med. high.

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Add the white wine with the saffron threads dissolved in it and Sambuca or Pernod (if using) Don’t worry if saffron does not completely dissolve.

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Cook about 4 minutes letting the wine cook down and the tomatoes release their juices.

Add the pepper flakes and herbs. Stir.

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Season with Salt and Pepper. Taste for seasoning.

Add the clams – give a light stir.

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Add the fennel fronds –  then cover to cook on medium high for 10 minutes.

Clams should all open – discard any that do not.

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Add the lemon now.

Taste for seasoning.

Your clams are now finished – you can enjoy them as is, or reserve them for the risotto. If serving  the clams alone, add a crusty loaf for dunking!

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Before serving – drizzle with a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

SECOND:  the risotto!

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: About 40 minutes


3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 Tbsp. Butter

2 c. Arborio Rice

1 Chopped Onion

1/2 c. Dry White Wine

1 c. Fresh Peas – if in season – if not, frozen is OK

4 c. Chicken broth – warm (keep a little extra handy in case you need it)

1/2 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese – grated (Montasio is also lovely in this)

2 Tbsp. Butter

Fresh Basil for garnish


Keep chicken broth warm for adding to the risotto so that you don’t reduce the temperature of the risotto as you cook it.

Cook onion in butter and oil about 5 minutes.

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Add the rice and cook another 5 minutes, tossing and coating with the oil and butter.

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Add the wine and cook down a little.

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Add the fresh or frozen peas.

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Begin adding the warm chicken broth a ladle at a time. Let the rice absorb the liquid as you stir constantly, before adding the next ladle. Repeat this until the broth is incorporated. Alternate with some of the liquid from the clams – remember to stir.

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When the risotto is tender to the bite, add the butter and stir in as it melts. Then add the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Let it rest a couple of minutes.

Spoon the cooked clams with the tomatoes and fennel over the risotto along with remaining juices. You can also do this with individual servings, if you like.

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Top with a drizzle of a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a sprinkle of chopped fresh Basil.

RISOTTO WITH FRESH CLAMS is a beautiful “Amalfi Style” dish that you will be proud to serve as well as happy to eat. It is a perfect dish for summer enjoyment and is the ideal choice, I think, for Recipe of the Month for June. You’ll want to try them both with and without the risotto, and when you do, listen for “Come Back to Sorrento” as you enjoy this aromatic delicacy from the sea.


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Risotto Alla Milanese

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LA DUCHESSA – The Play’s the Thing!

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Buon giorno!

A well made risotto is one of the wonders of Italian cuisine. Some like to use Carnaroli Rice – some like Arborio Rice – some like Vialone Nano, all short grain varieties. No matter which you choose, there is no denying that risotto is a memorable dish. Of all the different recipes for risotto, one sparkles for me like a perfectly cut canary gem. That is RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE. I like to give things names, so I shall call this one “La Duchessa”!

Whether served along side another dish or on its own, this risotto is a star. It is most often thought of as an accompaniment to the great Milanese favorite, Osso Buco. In my way of thinking, there is no better pairing of passion in all of Italian cuisine than this one. These star crossed lovers are symbiotic and play off one another in a perfectly directed one act play on the plate. Not only do the flavors of these two dishes compliment one another, but the visual is tantalizing. That stately veal shank prominently floating like an ocean liner, adorned with the tiny “flags” of gremolata, is only enhanced by the sunlit presence of this golden risotto. The colors are shockingly vivid. The aroma seduces as the sirens of mythology with flavors delivering a celestial triumph. Who could resist such splendor?

RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE dates as far back as the 1500’s from the Northern Italian region of Lombardia and is credited to the beautiful city of Milan. Its origins are said to come from the Sabbath Rice of the Venetian Jews.

Its simplicity makes it special: La Duchessa (the duchess) indeed! While it may smack of opulence and pomp, this risotto only appears theatrical and dramatic. It actually plays out simply, with very few ingredients, each significant to its elegant nature. When unnecessary extras are added to this brilliant dish, it falls flat. As always, the Italians know best – stick to simplicity, follow the script, and it will not disappoint.

Why the golden color? The beautiful golden color comes from the addition of Saffron threads.


But why use them? In centuries past, much of the food of Milan was actually prepared with flakes of real gold. It was considered a mark of wealth and position to use gold in food. In modern days, real gold being cost prohibitive, has been replaced with Saffron which emits the golden hue without breaking the bank! The Saffron threads are transformative to this dish.

Something different: It is not uncommon to use marrow in this risotto which brings even more richness. The marrow is the character no one expects, but provides the most surprise when introduced. Its use is optional but is another reason why the dish plays so well with the lovely marrow bones of its fellow Thespian in this performance, Osso Buco.

My preferences: I choose Arborio Rice because it is just easier – cooks faster and does the job every time. Very often, when I make risotto, I like to use Dry Vermouth instead of wine. I just like the flavor. This is one of those recipes where I appreciate the Vermouth a little more. I also like the use of shallots rather than onion in this one. The shallots are mild and sweet. For me, the flavors should all blend in this risotto, without any one of them taking center stage. Think of it as an “ensemble cast”.

Act I The players enter…


Serves: 4-6

Prep: 8 minutes

Cook: 20-30 minutes


2 1/2 c. Arborio Rice

5 Tbsp. Butter

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Whole Shallot – chopped

(1 oz. bone marrow – optional)

1/2 c. Dry Vermouth or Dry White Wine

6 c. chicken broth – warmed (sometimes you need a little more so plan an extra cup just in case)

Large Pinch of Saffron threads

2 Tbsp. Unsalted butter

2/3 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Fresh Parsley for garnish


Keep broth warm in pan on the stove. Remember, to always used warm/hot broth to your risotto so that the temperature of the rice does not drop.


Crush the Saffron threads between your fingers and add them to the warm broth to dissolve. Don’t worry if they don’t dissolve completely.

In a large wide pan, melt butter and add chopped shallot. Cook about 3 minutes.

Then add your rice and cook, stirring, another 5 minutes.

Pour in the Vermouth or wine and cook another minute or two letting it cook down some.

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You will now begin the technique of adding your warm broth slowly to the risotto pan, first with one cup, letting it absorb – and then slowly by about 1/2 cup as each previous addition of broth is absorbed by the rice.

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It is important to do this slowly, letting each addition of broth cook in before adding the next. Continue to do this until you use all or most of your broth and your risotto is tender and creamy.

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When the risotto is just tender to the bite, turn off your heat. Let it sit for a minute or two and then add the butter, letting it melt in, followed by the grated cheese. Garnish with a little fresh Flat Leaf Parsley.


The players exit and the curtain closes…


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January: Asparagus Risotto with Egg

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Mom’s Asparagus Soup Becomes Risotto!

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Buon giorno!

My mother, Loretta, used to make the loveliest Asparagus Soup especially in the winter. It was light and had a tomato broth. The best part of that soup was the Poached Egg that she added to the side of every bowl. I looked forward to piercing the yolk with my fork and letting the velvety yellow ooze flow into the tomato broth. When the yolk finally mixed with the broth, it created a smoother and thicker soup. Of course, the added protein also transformed the soup into a heartier meal. This was one of my favorite meatless meals…still is!

After musing about presenting this soup, I thought, instead, it might make an even more amazing risotto – taking an old favorite to a new level. The resulting ASPARAGUS RISOTTO WITH EGG has, along with being a beautiful variation on an old theme, become a new family favorite. I wish Loretta could see this one. She was a huge fan of rice in any form and loved risotto. I just think she might give me a wink on the new version of her “soup”.

I can’t tell you how satisfying this risotto is and even better – how easy it is to make. For a step by step on the general technique of making risotto check this link to my post on: Risotto With Brussel Sprouts and Chestnuts.


Serves: 4-6

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 20-25 min.


1 Can (28 oz) Whole Peeled Tomatoes (preferably San Marzano for best flavor and color)

5 c. Chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth if preferred)

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 Medium Onion, chopped

2 c. Arborio Rice

1 Bunch Fresh Asparagus, cut in short pieces – about 2”

2 Bay Leaves

1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Sage

1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Oregano

1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley

2 Tsp. Chopped Fresh Thyme

1/2 c. Parmigiano – Reggiano Cheese

2 Tbsp. Unsalted butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Fresh Basil and Sage for garnish

4 – 6 Eggs Poached (or fried)

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Remove the whole tomatoes from the can and chop them coarsely and warm them. Reserve the juices and puree for a dish for another day.

Warm the broth. Always add warm broth to your risotto.

Using a large pan, saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil – stir and cook on medium high heat about 5 minutes.

Add the rice to the pan and stir and cook the rice another 5 minutes on medium high heat – coating all of the rice kernels and toasting them a little.

Add the asparagus and the herbs to the pan and begin to add the warm broth starting with 1 cup. Keep stirring over medium high. As the broth is absorbed then add another ladle full. A large ladle is good for this. Keep repeating this process: adding the broth, stirring, and waiting for the rice to absorb before adding the next ladle. After a few ladles of broth, begin adding the warm tomatoes about 1/2 at a time. Then continue with the broth– adding, stirring, absorbing.

When you have used all your liquid – about 20-25 minutes – taste the risotto. The rice kernels should be al dente – not mushy – but with slight resistance.

Remove the risotto from the heat. Remove and discard the bay leaves! Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano to the risotto and mix in well. Add the unsalted butter and stir in. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Let it sit for a couple of minutes.

Garnish with Chopped Fresh Basil and Sage.

Poach (or fry) 1 egg for each person and serve it at the side of each individual serving.

To Serve: If you choose to serve a wine with this very rustic ASPARAGUS RISOTTO WITH EGG  dish – you might enjoy a Soave, a Falanghina, or a Verdicchio if you can find a nice one.


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Risotto with Brussel Sprouts and Chestnuts

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Buon giorno!

If ever there was an Italian dish suited to Thanksgiving, it just might be risotto. There are so many adaptations that one could think of. Rice, dependent upon where you are celebrating in this country, has become part of this holiday meal in sides and in stuffings. So perhaps then, a beautiful Italian contribution to Thanksgiving as a side dish or dish to take to this special meal at the home of a friend or relative just might be RISOTTO WITH BRUSSEL SPROUTS AND CHESTNUTS.

This dish is really tasty and deserves to be served not only on this special holiday but also in front of a roaring fire with a special someone or ones. I have actually had requests for the leftovers the following day. Now you know that usually means something.

Some things readily come to my mind when I think of when dreaming about a great Thanksgiving meal. They would be Brussel Sprouts, chestnuts, pancetta, orange, onions, rice and saffron. I know, I know – many have an aversion to the little green sprouted things. Me-thinks these “many” might not have thought to roast them, perhaps?  Roasting the sprouts, makes them almost nutty tasting, keeps their crunchiness, and they caramelize to emit the most wonderful toasty roasty flavor. Chestnuts remain front and center from Thanksgiving straight through the holiday season. In Italy, they are almost a staple – some even going so far as grinding the little gems into flour which is quite incredible! The other ingredients mentioned are an integral part of so many other traditional Thanksgiving dishes – onions, orange, pancetta or bacon.

So there we have it – Thanksgiving in Italy – sort of…

Andiamo! The table awaits!


SERVES: 4-6 or More as a side

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 20-30 minutes


3 Tbsp. Olive oil

4 Tbsp. Butter

1/4 lb. Pancetta – chopped

2 Large shallots – chopped

2 1/2 c. Arborio Rice

7 c. chicken stock –keep warm in pan

Pinch of saffron threads

1/2 c. White Wine – room temp (optional)

Zest of one orange

1 Red Pear or Apple – chopped coarsely – skin ON

1 lb. Fresh Brussel Sprouts roasted, sliced in quarters

1 Jar Whole Chestnuts

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/2 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Montasio Cheese – grated

2 Tbsp. Butter

Fresh Parsley (Flat Leaf) chopped for garnish

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I like to have all of my ingredients ready to add before I begin any of my risottos. This is a dish that requires all of your attention during the cooking time. Remember to make sure that your broth is warm so it will not alter the cooking process as you add it.

Toss Brussel Sprouts in a little olive oil – add some salt and pepper-spread out on pan and roast at 400 degrees for about 10-15 min. until JUST tender. Set aside.

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Add your saffron threads – crushing a little with your fingers – to the warm stock.

Cook pancetta in olive oil and butter until crisp. Remove pancetta and reserve.

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In same pan, add shallots and cook 5 minutes, stirring. (keep heat at med. high during the entire cooking process)

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Add Arborio rice and stir for about another 5 minutes to coat and toast the rice a little.

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Now add in the wine and stir as it cooks in.

Add the warm stock or broth with a large ladle  – a ladle at a time. Allow the rice to absorb – all the while stirring. Do not let the rice get dry in the pan but also let each ladle of broth absorb each time before adding another. Repeat this process until rice is tender – takes about 20 to 30 minutes total. You may or may not use all the broth depending on how quickly your risotto tenderizes. You will see how the rice changes and “plumps up” as it absorbs the liquid.

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About 1/2 way through the adding of the broth – add the orange zest and pear or apple.

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Towards the end of the broth additions, add the Brussel Sprouts and Chestnuts. Just look at that golden color  from the saffron appearing more vivid as the rice cooks! Troppo Bella!

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When rice is cooked. Turn off the heat and add the butter, letting it melt into the the hot risotto.

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Then add the grated cheese. Mix in. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.  Let it sit for a couple of minutes.

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Then sprinkle the pancetta and the fresh parsley over the top. You are ready to eat!

To Serve: With my RISOTTO WITH BRUSSEL SPROUTS AND CHESTNUTS I like a Ripasso Valpolicella. If white is preferred, I suggest a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

Think of this dish while approaching a tryptophan coma on the “big day”. Gobble Gobble – Joy Joy!!


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