Heavenly risotto with smoked mozarella

Risotto, a hearty rice-based dish, is also a delicious accompaniment to meat, fish or poultry. Add it to your repertoire of gourmet dishes.

Heavenly risotto with smoked mozarella
Risotto, a hearty rice-based dish, is filling enough to be a meal in itself.
Photo: FJ Potgieter Styling: Ailsa Uys

To make risotto with smoked mozzarella for four hungry diners, you will need:

  • 400g Arborio rice
  • 900ml chicken stock
  • 150g smoked mozzarella cheese
  • 120ml dry white wine
  • 60ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 25g grated Parmesan cheese
  • Half a medium-sized onion
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

For the stock

  • 2 chicken backs
  • 4 wings
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • A bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1,2ℓ water

For this kitchen mechanic, a man for whom vegetables had long been a marginal decoration to the serious nutritional input of beef, lamb and, infrequently, pork, the first encounter with risotto verged on a religious experience.

Perhaps, I mused, this was the original basis for manna from heaven. I was wrong, of course; rice is rice even when it’s the acclaimed Arborio cultivar.

1. Cooking risotto is not like preparing other forms of rice; it is labour-intensive and demands serious concentration. Preparation is simple: peel and finely chop the onion, carefully measure all ingredients, dice the mozzarella cheese, and then … big moment coming … decide about the chicken stock. May I suggest that you make your own for this fragrant and flavoursome meal? Unless you have a couple of litres in the deep freeze, this stint of minor effort should take 50 minutes maximum. Here’s how to do it:

2. Combine all the ingredients on the stock list in a saucepan with a lid. Bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, with the lid partially in place. When the timer rings, drain the contents, discard the solids, and measure out the 900ml you need for the risotto.

3. Risotto time has arrived. Cook the chopped onion in the butter in a saucepan. Pour in the Arborio rice. Weird, I grant you, but this is not a misprint. Let it cook for 60 seconds, stirring carefully all the while, then add the wine. Stir again for a couple of minutes, until the rice soaks up the wine.

4. Bring the 900ml of chicken stock to a simmer, then add it to the wine/onion/butter/rice mixture. Choose a medium-high heat and stir continuously for about 10 minutes.

Add the diced mozzarella plus the extra virgin olive oil. Keeping your stirring arm at peak revs, cook the mixture for 60 seconds, then add the Parmesan. Give the risotto another five minutes of powerful stirring action, then serve either on its own, or with a delicate serving of rare beef. A little taste of heaven.

David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.