October 27, 2012 at 8pm at the “Salone del Gusto” in Turin, Italy, was the webcasted event “Parmigiano Reggiano Night.” This occasion was to celebrate one of Italy’s most beloved cheeses and an opportunity to virtually share the table with all who supported the local cheese farmers and companies that produce the almighty Parmigiano Reggiano!
The Northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna was greatly affected by the earthquakes of May 20th and 29th. Well-known for its traditional regional cuisine and infamous local products (such as Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, to name just a few), the region has hundreds of regional farmers that were affected and many small artisan companies that were damaged during the earthquakes. Many people bought stranded wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano online that would otherwise have no home to age in. To thank people for their support, the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium created the “Parmigiano Reggiano Night” which invited homes around Italy to take part in the webcasted dinner event that shared a recipe by Modena native and world-renowned Chef Massimo Bottura, owner of the Three Michelin “Osteria Francescana” restaurant in Modena, Italy. Chef Bottura created a risotto recipe to be shared at the “Parmigiano Reggiano Night.’ His “Risotto Cacio e Pepe” (cheese and pepper risotto) uses Parmigiano Reggiano cheese as the highlight ingredient, instead of the traditional Pecorino Romano for the “cacio” (see my previous recipe for “Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe” for more information). Click here to see a brief interview with Chef Bottura explaining the inspiration for his dish.
About this recipe
The recipe I share with you is from Chef Massimo Bottura. I only changed the amount of risotto made (4 servings instead of 6 servings) and I simplified the “pepe” element to include a mix of black, white, green and pink peppercorns instead of his more exotic mix of white, Szechuan, Jamaican, Sarawak, and wild peppers. I strongly encourage you to follow his recipe if you can find this wonderful blend for your risotto.
A word of advice: don’t be intimidated by the risotto! As long as you know how you like your risotto, you will know how to cook it. Since the liquid element (usually broth) is slowly added ladle by ladle and stirred until the rice absorbs it before adding more liquid, you will be able to moderate how your rice cooks to your taste. Yes, it is that simple, even if risotto disguises itself as a sophisticated dish, it is not complicated to make.
Chef Bottura’s recipe fascinated me because he obtains the liquid element for the risotto from the aged parmesan cheese! The recipe calls for heating the freshly grated aged parmesan with water, until the cheese separates into threads. Allowing the liquid to cool and be refrigerated overnight creates a separation of “Parmigiano Reggiano water” used to cook the rice, and a “Parmigiano Reggiano cream” that is used towards the end to cream the risotto. The result… Brilliant! The flavor… mmm…Divine! I will certainly be using this “Bottura technique” very often!
Risotto Cacio e Pepe
Recipe from Chef Massimo Bottura for “Parmigiano Reggiano Night”
Prep time: 10 minutes to make the Parmigiano Reggiano Water (to be made the day before)
Cook time: 30-35 minutes
Ingredients – Parmigiano Reggiano Water:
- 35 ounces (992g) of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (ideally one that has been aged for 30 months)
- 2 2/3 liters of water
Ingredients – Risotto:
- 12 oz (330g) of Arborio rice (Chef Bottura uses “Vialone Nano rice”)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Freshly cracked pepper mix*
Recipe Note: For the pepper, I used a mixed of black, white, green, and pink peppercorns. Chef Bottura uses a mix of white, Szechuan, Jamaican, Sarawak, and wild peppers.
Directions for the Parmigiano Reggiano Water
- Mix freshly grated cheese with water.
- In a pan, at low heat stir cheese and water mixture (if you have a thermometer, heat it up to 176°F (80°C). Note: do not go over 194°F (90°C). According to the original recipe “when the Parmigiano Reggiano starts to go into threads at the bottom, remove the pan from the heat and leave it to cool down to room temperature.”
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave overnight in the fridge.
- The mixture will separate into a creamy solid and water parts. You will use the Parmigiano Reggiano water to cook the risotto, and the cream part towards the end to make the risotto creamy.
Directions for the Risotto
- In a medium sized pan, heat the olive oil (at low heat) and add the Arborio rice and stir the rice to get an even coating of the oil. Sauté the rice in the oil for a minute.
- Add some of the Parmigiano Reggiano water (enough just to cover the rice), and stir frequently until the water is absorbed (but the rice is not dry).
- Keep adding the Parmigiano Reggiano water until the rice develops a softer consistency by taste. When it is nearly cooked, add some of the Parmigiano Reggiano cream and stir thoroughly.
- If needed, add more of the Parmigiano Reggiano water, until the rice reaches your desired consistency in texture.
- Remove from heat and add the remainder of the Parmigiano Reggiano cream.
- Plate the risotto and sprinkle freshly cracked pepper on top.
- Serve immediately.
I hope you give this recipe a try, and share the love for one of Italy’s favorite cheeses at your dinner table! Enjoy!