The secret to a good risotto is patience. So says Sydney chef Orazio d’Elia, co-owner of Matteo Double Bay and Matteo Downtown. “Don’t rush,” he says. “Take it step by step and make sure you taste as you go.”
The rules around making risotto are well-established. A world-famous dish from northern Italy, risotto comes with a rich historical tradition passed down through generations. In the 14th century the Spanish brought rice to Italy where the Mediterranean conditions proved ideal for growing starchy short-grained rice, giving rise to the dish we know today. Risotto’s core ingredients – onion, rice, stock, wine and parmesan – serve as a versatile base to which innumerable ingredients can be added.
D’Elia, who is from Pomigliano d’Arco in the southern city of Naples, says his failsafe, simple recipe – featuring Castello Blue Cheese and beetroot puree – is guaranteed to produce a delicious dish that would make any Italian nonna proud.
Tradition dictates risotto is usually finished with butter (the process is known as mantecato), but d’Elia finishes this iteration with Castello Blue Cheese. “I got the same velvety smooth creaminess that I get when I use butter,” he says.
Inspiration for the dish came from the classic beetroot risotto typically served with gorgonzola on top. “I wanted to do the opposite,” says d’Elia. “I wanted to make cheese the hero and then finish with beetroot, because I know it’s a crowd favourite.” Stirred through at the end, the beetroot is sweet and a little buttery, balancing the richness of the cheese.
D’Elia’s first rule of preparing risotto is to “choose a good grain of rice.” In this recipe, the chef uses Carnaroli, a medium-grained rice that holds its texture well. It’s also important to add liquid to the pan slowly, allowing each ladleful to absorb before adding another. “We don’t want to suffocate the risotto – it won’t cook properly,” he says.
Here’s how to make D’Elia’s risotto dish at home.
Creamy risotto with Castello Blue Cheese and beetroot puree by chef Orazio d’Elia.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
500ml cold water
1 celery stalk
A pinch of salt
2 fresh beetroots
A pinch of salt
Micro herbs (optional)
200g Carnaroli rice
1/2 cup of white wine
150g of Castello Creamy Blue Cheese
Bunch of eschalots
A pinch of salt
Stock: Put cold water, celery, carrots and onion into a saucepan. Season with salt and bring to boil, then let boil for 30 minutes until vegetables are cooked. When cooked, strain to remove vegetables and put remaining stock to one side.
Beetroot puree: Boil fresh beetroot with skin on. To check when beetroot is cooked, poke with a skewer. When soft, take off stove. Peel and chop then put in food processor with a dash of oil and pinch of salt to taste. Blitz ingredients until a fine puree. Set aside.
Risotto: Chop eschalots and fry in butter in a pan. When eschalots are starting to caramelise, add in rice and keep tossing or stirring. (In Italian we call this brillare which means “to shine”.)
Add half a cup of white wine to the rice. Keep tossing or stirring, then start adding in stock, one ladle at a time while stirring slowly. Use just enough stock until the risotto is creamy.
Keep stirring the rice for 15 minutes or until ready.
Season to taste by adding a pinch of salt. Remember to keep tasting for seasoning and texture.
When the risotto is ready, take it off the heat and add the Creamy Castello Blue cheese, mixing it slowly until the risotto is nice and creamy.
Serve: Ladle risotto into a plate and gentle tap or knock the bottom of the plate. This helps to expand and settle the risotto. Drizzle beetroot puree on top of the risotto. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil over the risotto. If you have some micro herbs, add on top for a delicate garnish.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Castello Blue Cheese.