Just in time for a snowy weekend at home and Valentine's Day around the corner, here's a cozy Italian recipe and wine pairing from Eric Guido, wine director of the superlative Morrell's Fine Wine & Spirits at Rockefeller Center. See the step-by-step preparation of the delectable, vino-splashed risotto in the slideshow above, and follow Guido's blog for more recipes and tasting notes.
Red Wine Risotto with Roasted Red Grapes (Risotto del Vino Rosso)
Risotto al Vino Rosso may require time and patience, but it's relatively simple to prepare and will not only warm you on a cold winter's night, but will also warm the heart of your loved one on Valentine’s Day. This dish is all about exciting flavors that come together in perfect unity to please the senses. Sweet meets salty meets acidity on the palate, leaving you yearning for another bite.
As for the wine, look no further than Sangiovese, which works perfectly because of its zesty acidity and renowned ability to pair wonderfully with pork, especially pancetta. Among the bottles based on that grape, a Chianti Classico will do the trick (recommended: Fontodi Chianti Classico 2013, $34), but if you're going for the gusto, then there's no better way to say I love you than with a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino (recommended: Salicutti Brunello di Montalcino Piaggione 2011, $74).
5 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 quarts of chicken stock
2 cups risotto rice (arborio, cannaroli or vialone nano)1/2 red onion (small dice)
1 1/4 cups red wine (use the same wine you're pairing it with if the expense isn't too high, otherwise make sure to use the same varietal, Sangiovese)
3 tbsp. of pancetta or prosciutto (small dice)
1 carrot (fine dice)
1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
2 tsp. fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with roasted red seedless grapes
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spread out one cup of small red seedless grapes. Place them in the oven and allow to roast for 1 1/2 hours. When they're done, move to an area to cool completely.
Place the stock in a pot over a low flame and allow it to come to a simmer.
In a sauté pan, add 3 tbsp. of butter and place over a medium flame. Once the butter has melted, add the small dice of pancetta. Allow the pancetta to cook for five minutes, or until crispy, and then remove the pancetta and set aside for later. Add the carrots and cook in the butter and reduced fat from the pancetta. After about two minutes, add the onions. Allow the mixture to sweat in the butter until the onions become translucent. Next, add the rice. Stir to assure that the rice is coated in the butter and allow it to toast slightly, but do not allow it to take on any color.
Add the red wine to the pan and increase the flame to medium high. Set a timer for 19 minutes as a guide. Stirring constantly, allow the red wine to cook down by half.
Next, reduce the heat back to medium and add a ladle of stock while constantly stirring. Each time the stock cooks down to the point where the rice begins to form trails in the pan as the spoon stirs it, add another ladle of stock. When there is about 10 minutes left on the timer, sprinkle a small pinch of salt into the risotto.
Continue stirring and adding stock as needed until the timer reads three minutes remaining. Add 2/3 of the pancetta back into the pan and stir to combine. Now you should taste for seasoning and doneness. A proper al dente should have a very slight crunch to it at its core. Be careful, at this time, that you don’t add too much stock, but also keep in mind that the 19-minute timer is only a guide and that the taste will really tell you when it’s done.
When the risotto is al dente, remove it from heat. Add the last two tablespoons of butter and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus a few cracks of fresh pepper, and stir to combine.
When you're ready to plate, if the rice is too thick, you can add a small ladle of stock to liven it up. Plate the risotto into small heated bowls, sprinkle with parsley, the remaining pancetta, and spread out some of the roasted grapes on top. Serve.