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Entries in risotto (3)


Sicilian Arancine

Arancine are one of the most traditional foods in all of Sicily.  These fried rice balls resemble oranges - the Italian word for orange is arancia.  They can be stuffed with a variety of mixtures, but a meat sauce, or ragu, is the most traditional.  In Sicily, they are sold everywhere and we loved to see them sold on the street by vendors, in the airport or even gas stations.  How different from the sad hot dogs and pretzels you buy in an American gas station! They are great picnic fare and are often eaten just held in a paper napkin.  Arancine are made by forming balls of risotto, inserting some kind of stuffing, rolling them in bread crumbs and then frying. They are best served hot but can be eaten room temperature.  

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Eggplant Rollatini

This makes a delicious vegetarian entree or a filling side dish. You all know how to make risotto now - remember my risotto post? For this recipe, however, instead of making a saffron type risotto, I make it with a little tomato paste and very light beef broth. You can certainly use vegetable broth if you want to keep it a vegetarian dish. This dish is great because you can make it in the morning, or even the day before, refrigerate it and bring it to room temperature before baking.

There is a lot of debate with cooks about whether to salt eggplant or not. Some people claim that salting the eggplant before cooking helps get rid of any bitterness. Salt does help suppress bitterness in foods, this is true, but most people rinse off the salt before cooking. Actually, the main reason to salt eggplant is to help with the amount of oil the eggplant soaks up during cooking. If you have ever cooked eggplant, you know it can absorb an unbelievable amount of oil. That is because eggplant is full of tiny air pockets. It is actually just like a sponge. When you slice eggplant and then salt it before cooking, the salt draws out the moisture and helps collapse the air pockets, so it takes on a lot less oil. It is worth doing.

Eggplant Rolatini

This recipe makes 5 rollatini.


For the Risotto:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 4 cups light beef broth (or vegetable broth), heated
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan

for the eggplant:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • oilve oil
  • marinara sauce


Heat a little olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the garlic and saute gently for one minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute. Add the rice and cook for about a minute more.

Start adding the warm broth and stir the risotto. Every time the rice absorbs the liquid, add a couple more ladles. Keep stirring for about 25 to 30 minutes. Take the risotto off the heat and add the cheese. Transfer to a bowl and let cool before assembling rollatini.


Slice the very ends off the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices. You should have 5 slices for a large eggplant. Salt the slices heavily and place in a colander for about one hour. Rinse the salt off the eggplant and press with paper towels to dry.

Heat a grill or grill pan on the stove. Make sure it's hot before beginning. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on both sides until you have nice grill marks and the eggplant is pliable.

Place a little marinara sauce in the bottom of a small baking dish. Place some risotto all along the eggplant slices and roll up and place seam side down in baking dish. Top with marinara sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes covered. Remove cover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.


What's So Scary About Risotto?

Don't we all love risotto? It has been so cold here in Michigan for so long now that it's really time for some risotto. There are so many people, though, who would love to be able to make it but are scared to try. They've heard it's difficult, takes forever to cook and requires constant stirring (this part is sort of true - it does require a lot of stirring, but not constantly). It's actually very simple to make and, once you master a basic recipe, there are endless variations you can try. It's easy to experiment with whatever you have on hand.

You can serve risotto as a side dish or use it as a main course, although Italians primarily use it as a primo piatto - when they would normally eat a small pasta course. (This is true unless you eat at Dino and Tony's in Rome, where Tony loves to serve you both a risotto and a pasta course.)


Don't try to substitute regular rice in risotto - it just won't work. Regular rice does not contain the kind of starch needed to make a creamy risotto. The rice used most widely for risotto, and the easiest to find, is Arborio rice from Italy. It is a short plump grain that is perfect for risotto. My favorite rice, though, is Carnaroli, when I can find it. Carnaroli has the highest amount of the particular starch needed for risotto, making it very creamy and absorbing lots of liquid.

You need two pots to make risotto - one to cook the dish and one to keep the broth warm that you will use. You will choose which kind of liquid to use depending on what kind of risotto you are making. Marcella Hazan believes that you should never use chicken broth for risotto (Mario does!) but that is what is frequently used to make the traditional Risotto Milanese. For the risotto, I like to use a pot which has sloping sides, like a chef's pot (see below) or a bouillabaisse pot, for a large batch. It makes the stirring of the risotto much nicer.

Risotto Milanese is a nice side dish to serve with meats. It's wonderful, of course, with Osso Bucco. As a general guide, I allow 1/4 cup of dry rice for each person as a side dish. And don't omit the saffron - it's really what defines this traditional risotto.

Risotto Milanese


serves 4 as a side dish


  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced finely
  • 1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1 large pinch saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan


Bring the chicken broth to a simmer. Lower heat, keep warm.

In the risotto pan, add the olive oil and onion. Cook the onion slowly for several minutes, until soft but do not brown. Add the rice and cook the rice for a couple of minutes. Add the saffron. Add the white wine and cook for a couple of minutes until the liquid has cooked off.

Start adding the broth. Add a couple of ladles initially and stir. Use a rubber spatula instead of a spoon. This really is the best tool - you can really lift the rice off the bottom of the pan. When you begin adding the broth, start timing the risotto. It should take between 20-25 minutes. You should stir the rice as much as you can, not allowing it to stick to the bottom of the pan. Do not boil the rice, just keep it on a simmer. As soon as the liquid has cooked off, keeping adding the broth by the ladleful. After about 20 minutes, taste the rice. It should be soft, but still retain a little firmness. When you think it is done, do not add any more liquid. Four cups of broth is usually just right. When the rice has absorbed the liquid, turn off the heat and add the parmesan. Serve hot and add more grated parmesan to the top if you like.

Tip: Use real Parmigiano Reggiano, if you can, and grate it yourself. Look to make sure the rind has the Parmigiano stamp on it. I use this cheese myself and I do not throw the rinds away after I have used all the cheese. I will cut off a chunk of the rind and throw it in when I make risottos and let it cook along with the rice, flavoring the risotto. 

Favorite pan for risotto: Mauviel's copper chef's pan