One of our favorite things about fall on the farm is the opportunity to forage for mushrooms – whether in our forest or at our farmers market! The cooler months and start of the rainy season allow many delicious things to grow in our region, including porcini mushrooms.
We haven’t noticed any in our pine tree forest recently, but while shopping at our local produce market this week, we spotted some large mushrooms still covered in dirt and we couldn’t resist.
With a fire crackling in the fireplace and an open bottle of Tuscan red wine, we settled in on a cool evening to unite some of our favorite Maremma ingredients – porcini mushrooms and our rice – in a warm bowl of risotto.
Risotto season has just begun, so celebrate the beginning with us by trying your hand at our Porcini Mushroom Risotto recipe! Of course, if you can’t find fresh porcini mushrooms, dried ones will do; otherwise you can substitute your favorite kind of mushrooms. In the tradition of Italian-style cooking, the recipe that follows isn’t precise, but with these simple, classic ingredients you can’t go wrong!
Porcini Mushroom Risotto
- Tenuta San Carlo White Risotto Rice (For the amount of rice, I measure two medium handfuls per person plus an extra handful per every four people.)
- Porcini Mushrooms (Quantity depends on personal preference and size of mushrooms – one very large mushroom could be sufficient or you may use a few small ones. The flavor, especially of fresh mushrooms, can be very earthy and potent, so it is not necessary to use many.)
- Olive Oil
- White Onion, finely chopped
- White wine, for cooking
- Light vegetable stock (A simple stock cooked for an hour beforehand with celery, carrots, and onions will do; using store-bought is also an option.)
First, chop the mushroom(s) into half-inch cubes. Pick a pot or a pan that is deep enough for the amount of mushrooms that you start with – they will reduce significantly in size as they cook – and heat a few tablespoons of oil in this pot or pan. Add the mushrooms and allow them to cook until they become soft and browned, then set them aside.
For the risotto, choose a pot or a pan that gives you a good amount of bottom surface area and can handle three times the amount of uncooked rice that you begin with – the rice will increase in size as it cooks.
There are five basic phases to making risotto.
1. MAKING THE “SOFFRITTO”
Heat some olive oil in your pot and add the onions. Stir and cook until they are transparent.
Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil and keep it at a low boil.
Add the porcini mushrooms that you cooked earlier to the pot and stir.
Add the rice to the pot to “toast” it. This is important. Stir the rice into the onions and mushrooms and let it toast a bit (do not burn it!).
Before adding any cooking liquid, you are going to add some white wine to “smoke” the rice. Keep on stirring that rice until all of the liquid has smoked off.
This is the main “cooking” phase. You should add enough boiling stock to completely cover the rice. Once you start seeing bubbles form, start stirring again. Now you are going to keep on adding liquid a little bit at a time so that there is always enough liquid to just barely cover the rice. You need to be constantly stirring in this phase.
Start tasting the rice after about 12 minutes of cooking time. I like my risotto like my pasta – “al dente”; that is, still a bit hard and definitely not overcooked. Most risotto rices cook in 15-18 minutes but it varies greatly depending on the variety and the amount being cooked.
You will have to turn the heat off before the rice is fully cooked because it will cook a bit more – a couple of minutes – during the “mantecatura” phase.
Remove the rice from the heat, then a healthy dose of butter. Stir the mushrooms and butter into the rice, cover the pot, and let it sit for a 3-5 minutes.
Remove the lid and the risotto is ready to serve. Add some grated parmesan to taste if you’d like, but we prefer to let the flavor of the porcini mushrooms shine on their own.
— Ariane Lotti