“Once you get the technique down-pat, it’s a really great dish to cook at home,” says Neil Perry, the founder of Rosetta in Melbourne and Sydney, of this zucchini risotto.
He emphasises the importance of scorching the rice properly, then incorporating the stock slowly, with patience, so the rice “neither drowns, nor gets too dry.”
“The perfect risotto wants to be started, cooked through and served right away. Many, many restaurants actually have to pre-cook the risotto and then reheat it to keep up with service. At home, you can cook one of the best risottos in the world if you do it right.”
This dish is at its best when zucchini is in season, in spring and summer, but it works year-round. In autumn, replace the zucchini with a medley of your favourite mushrooms – say, shiitake, oyster and swiss brown.
Zucchini Risotto, by Rosetta
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour and 30 minutes.
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pinch chilli flakes
1kg zucchini, coarsely grated
500g zucchini, cut to 1cm cubes, with skin on
2L vegetable stock
1 brown onion, finely diced
300g carnaroli rice
100g Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
½ bunch round-leaf mint, picked
200g fresh ricotta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a large, heavy-based pot over a low heat. Cook the garlic and chilli in 2 tbsp oil for 30–45 seconds, until the garlic has lost its raw smell, but do not let it colour.
Add the grated zucchini and 500ml stock and simmer for 50–60 minutes. Aim to evaporate all the stock, but add more water as needed if the process is happening too quickly. After an hour, the zucchini should be very soft and will have lost its vibrant colour. Set aside.
In boiling salted water, cook the diced zucchini for 1 minute, then drain and refresh in iced water. Set aside.
Bring the remaining stock (1.5L) to boil in a clean pot and keep at a slow simmer. Place another heavy-based pot over medium heat. Cook the onion in 4 tbsp oil for 6–7 minutes until soft and translucent but not coloured. Add rice and cook for 2 minutes, until the grains are well coated with oil and starting to become translucent.
Add stock, about 100ml at a time, and continue to stir until absorbed. Repeat this until the rice is cooked through but still retains some bite. This should take 16–20 minutes. You may have some stock left over. Make sure the risotto is wet enough to pour, then fold through both zucchini preparations, the mint and the parmesan. Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.
Divide the risotto between 4 plates. Slap the bottom of each plate to evenly spread the risotto to the rims. Top each plate with some ricotta divided into 1 tsp-size pieces. Serve immediately.
This is an extract from The Broadsheet Italian Cookbook, which features 80 recipes from Australia's best restaurants, cafes and bars.