The Suocera’s Spring Risotto (risotto alla primavera)
It’s the first day of spring! Yeah! Here in Milan the weather has been absolutely gorgeous, sunny and mild.
In honor of the arrival of spring I decided to make “risotto alla primavera”, which means spring risotto. Yesterday I went to the market to get all the scrumptious spring ingredients, fresh peas in the pod, asparagus, fava beans, and zucchini.
I first learned how to make this dish from my “ex mother in law”, also known as in my mind as the wicked witch of the West, “la suocera” from hell, the embodiment of all that is wrong with Italian in laws, even if I never actually was married to son.
During the 5+ years I dated her son, she for all practically purposes did not speak to me. Even though we lived in the same building for TWO (2) YEARS! Yes, if we actually ever happened to cross paths, she’d pretend she didn’t see me. But simply not talking to me would have been too easy. She also visited our apartment when I wasn’t in the house and moved things around as she saw best. She even had the cleaning ladies spy on me. One of them was always inquiring if I was pregnant!
Obviously since we weren’t on speaking terms, spending the holidays together was out of the question. My ex unfortunately was the stereotypical Italian “mammone” still living with his parents at 31. For years he chose to spend all major holiday’s with his parents, instead of me the girlfriend.
Ironically, she wasn’t always an evil witch. When I first met her she was actually really nice to me. She even invited me to go to the theater with the family the following weekend. But that’s because apparently I was a nice enough girl to be her son’s friend. But heaven forbid that we date! As his father put it, being an American I wasn’t a fit partner for their Italian son.
When we initially met I was just the inquisitive American studying in Milan that really liked to cook. Her son belongs to a nonprofit organization that had given me a scholarship to study in Italy. He had invited me over to dinner at his/her/their house (as he had done with the other scholarship winner). I pounced on the opportunity to come over early to see this typical Italian housewife in action. She is a really good cook.
This is a slight modification of how she made the risotto that spring day oh so many years ago.*
8 handfuls** of Carnaroli rice (approx 160 grams)
1.5 cups of mixed spring vegetables of choice
4 cups (about 1L) of low sodium vegetable broth
1/4 scallion, finely diced
1/3 cup (88ml) dry white wine
1/2 tsp parsley, finely diced
1 dry bay leaf
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
Serves: 2. Total Cook Time: 25-30 minutes
1. Simmer vegetable broth in pot on low.
2. In another cold pot add olive oil, scallions and rice. Cook on medium for about 5 minutes, until scallions are soft and rice is translucent on the outside and opaque on the inside.
3. Add white wine, cook until evaporated out for another 3-5 minutes.
4. Set timer to the lower end of the rice cook time (about 15 minutes). Pour half of broth, spring vegetables*** and bay leaf onto rice, cook on medium high, stirring occasionally.
5. Once all the water is absorbed, lower fire to medium. Continue adding a little broth (about 1/3 cup) at a time while stirring frequently (if not constantly) until reaching the estimated cook time. Taste risotto for doneness. If not finished continue adding broth a little at a time, and still stirring continuously.
6. Take pot off fire and remove bay leaf. Mix in parsley, butter and Parmesan cheese. Check for salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy!
*My former mother “in law” cooks the vegetables separately in the pot where she will eventually cook the rice. She then mixes the cooked vegetables back into the rice a few minutes before the rice is finished cooking.
**The former suocera taught me this trick, 4 handfuls (or fist) of rice per person. I think that’s easier than weighing it.
*** If you like your vegetables more al dente, add them in only after the rice has been cooking for a few minutes.