Nigella’s risotto bolognese

Risotto bolognese probably shouldn’t be a thing. But what a thing it is. I know I’m always banging on about risotto, but I make no apologies for writing about this one- it’s comforting and tasty and ideal as a bit of a Saturday night treat. Honestly- you could do a lot worse than plonking yourself down in front of a decent film with a bowl of this to shovel into your gob.

This is my own version of Nigella’s recipe, which I can’t find on her website or the BBC one. It is in her Kitchen book though (incidentally my favourite of her books so far).

Ingredients

  • 4 rashers of bacon, excess fat trimmed off
  • An onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • A small carrot, scrubbed and grated
  • A stick of celery, chopped roughly
  • Three cloves of garlic, peeled
  • Olive oil
  • A tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Marsala
  • Milk
  • 3 bay leaves
  • A beef stock cube
  • 250g lean beef mince
  • 150g risotto rice
  • A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Parmesan

Snip the bacon into tiny pieces and fry in a dry pan until it’s starting to get nicely crispy.

Put the onion, carrot, celery and garlic into a food processor and whizz until well puréed. Add a small amount of olive oil to the bacon pan and add the mush from the food processor. Cook over a medium heat for about five minutes.

Whizz the chopped tomatoes in the food processor and add these to the pan as well. Add a glug of marsala and a splash of milk, along with the bay leaves and crumbled stock cube. Stir everything together and leave on a low heat for a bit.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, brown the beef mince and drain off any excess fat. Stir the risotto rice into the beef.

Boil a kettleful of water.

Start to add the tomato sauce to the beef/ rice mixture a ladleful at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the moisture before adding the next ladleful. When all the tomato sauce has been used up, start to add boiling water from the kettle, roughly a ladleful at a time, still allowing the rice to absorb it before adding the next one. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked. This could take 20 to 30 minutes.

Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley and a generous amount of parmesan. Season with pepper to taste (you probably won’t need salt as the bacon is salty). Divide into bowls and serve with extra parmesan on top.

Serves two greedy people (but could easily feed three).

Two risottos for autumn

I’ve written before about my love of risotto and its comforting properties. So, as a follow on from my ‘Summersotto’ post, here are a couple of suggestions for autumnal risottos:

(both recipes serve two)

Roasted butternut squash and blue cheese risotto

Ingredients

  • 500-600g butternut squash (about half a large one), peeled and cut into chunks
  • Nutmeg (optional)
  • About 40g pine nuts
  • A glug of olive oil
  • A knob of butter
  • An onion, chopped
  • A stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 150-165g risotto rice
  • 700ml hot vegetable stock
  • A tablespoonful of fresh sage, finely chopped, or a teaspoonful of dried sage
  • About 100g blue cheese
  • Black pepper
  • Truffle flavoured oil, for drizzling (optional)

Start by roasting the butternut squash. Place the chunks of squash into a roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and grate on some nutmeg if you fancy it. Scrunch with clean hands to coat the squash in oil. Roast at gas mark 5 (190⁰C) for about 45 minutes or until the squash is tender enough for a knife to easily go into it. Set aside.

When you’re ready to make your risotto, get all your ingredients ready.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan (use the same pan that you plan on using for your risotto) until they start to turn golden but without burning them. Set them aside in a bowl.

Heat the olive oil and butter in the pan, then add the onion and celery and fry them gently until they are translucent. Add the risotto rice and stir it in until it’s covered in buttery oil.

Begin to add the stock a ladleful at a time as you normally would with any risotto. After the first couple of ladlefuls of stock have been absorbed, stir in the sage before continuing to add the stock.

When you’ve used up all your stock, test a couple of grains of rice to see if they’re cooked. If not, add a bit more stock or boiling water and keep stirring for a couple more minutes.

Turn off the heat and crumble in the blue cheese, stirring it in until it’s nicely melted. Season well with black pepper and divide between bowls. Scatter the butternut squash and pine nuts on top and serve.

I like a drizzle of truffle flavoured oil on this, but it’s just as nice without.

Mushroom risotto with bacon

Ingredients

  • 4 rashers of bacon
  • A glug of olive oil
  • A knob of butter
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • An onion, chopped
  • A stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 150-165g risotto rice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Sherry
  • 650ml hot vegetable or chicken stock
  • A tablespoonful of fresh thyme or a teaspoon of dried
  • Parmesan

Grill the bacon until crispy and set aside.

Heat the oil and butter in a pan and add the mushrooms, onion and celery. Fry until the onion and celery are translucent and the mushrooms are softened. Add the risotto rice and stir to coat with oil and butter. Add the garlic and fry gently for a couple more minutes.

Turn up the heat and add a generous glug of sherry. Allow it to bubble down a bit before beginning to add the stock a ladleful at a time. Add the thyme after the first couple of ladlefuls have been absorbed.

When you’ve used up all your stock, test a couple of grains of rice to see if they’re cooked. If not, add a bit more stock or boiling water and keep stirring for a couple more minutes.

Turn off the heat and grate in a decent amount of parmesan, stirring to melt it in.

Divide between bowls and trim the bacon into strips on top.

Note added 9th January, 2012

I made this mushroom risotto tonight, but used a pack of fresh shiitake mushrooms (which we like to pronounce ‘shit-ache’ in our household because we’re childish) which were in the reduced bit at Sainsbury’s. I also added several chopped chestnut mushrooms and a few dried porcini mushrooms, which I soaked in boiling water to rehydrate them. I then used the soaking water in the stock. I can definitely recommend the porcini mushrooms for an extra mushroomy flavour hit. You don’t need to use many of them- I find a pack of dried ones (stored in a kilner jar) goes a long way.

Summersotto

I’m very fond of risotto. It’s quick and easy to make and versatile too. I especially enjoy it in the depths of winter, when you need something comforting and stodgy to shovel down and make you feel all cosy. However, I recently made this ‘Summersotto’ when the weather was a bit warmer, as I wanted a risotto that was light and summery (despite this being a bit of a contradiction in terms). I didn’t really want to call it ‘Summersotto’, by the way- it sounds like the sort of thing Nigella would come up with (although my unconditional love for her still stands). I purposefully wrote down ‘Summer Risotto’ when I noted down the recipe, but the word ‘Summersotto’ crept back in and now I’m stuck with it. Sorry about that.

One thing I will say about risotto is that it’s important to be prepared. I’m not usually the sort of person who gets all my ingredients set up in bowls, Delia style, before I start. I make an exception for risotto though- it only takes a few minutes to get everything ready and it ensures you can give it your all for the eighteen minutes of stirring that follows (let’s call it twenty- risotto recipes are always so precise about that magic number of eighteen minutes but who’s really counting?)

Ingredients

  • A knob of butter
  • Olive oil
  • An onion, chopped
  • 165g risotto rice (150g would be enough for two, but I buy risotto rice in 500g packets and use a third per risotto)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • White wine
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • 100g frozen broad beans
  • 100g frozen peas
  • A small courgette, grated
  • Zest of a lemon
  • Fresh mint, chopped
  • Fresh thyme, chopped
  • 100g feta, chopped into small cubes
  • Parmesan (optional)

Get all your ingredients ready. Put a small pan of water on to boil and in a separate, larger pan, melt the butter. Add a glug of olive oil and then add the onion. Cook the onion until it’s turning translucent and add the risotto rice. Stir to coat everything in butter and oil, then add the garlic and cook for a minute or so. Turn the heat up a bit higher and add a generous glug of white wine and the lemon juice. Allow the booze to cook off a bit.

Begin to add your vegetable stock a ladleful at a time, allowing it to be absorbed before adding the next one- you know what to do. Keep stirring as you go. When you’ve used about half of your stock, add the broad beans and peas to the smaller pan of boiling water. Cover and allow to simmer.

When you’ve used up all your stock, test a couple of grains of rice to see if they’re cooked. If not, add a bit more stock or boiling water and keep stirring for a couple more minutes.

Turn off the heat and stir through the grated courgette, lemon zest and herbs. Drain and add the beans and peas.

Divide into bowls and sprinkle the feta over the top. Add some parmesan too, if you fancy.

Serves two.