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by Kristina Vanni

Buongiorno, Dine’d Up readers!  I am so excited to contribute to the edible portion of this fantastic site.  Since I am sure many of you are wine connoisseurs, I thought I would start with a recipe that not only pairs well with wine, it is made with it, too!  On a recent trip to Sicily at the Principi di Butera estate, I enjoyed a breathtaking risotto dish made with their red wine.  It was prepared with a beautiful Nero d’Avola, a native grape to the island. When I came back to the states I found myself craving this decadent dish and just knew I had to recreate it!

If you are a fan of Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, or any other of the food competition shows on TV, you are aware that risotto seems to be the downfall of many competitors.  Over and over they are chastised for the dish and often sent packing for the preparation.  I am here to assure you that risotto is not to be feared, but celebrated!  With a few easy tips and tricks, you will soon wonder what all t
he fuss is about!

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  • The key to risotto is warming the chicken broth.  You don’t want to add cold broth to the risotto, so I recommend having it ready to go in a saucepan next to your skillet with the risotto.  Then you can simply ladle the warm broth into the pan as you cook.
  • Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the onions.  They need to be cooked over medium heat until they are soft and translucent, but not brown.
  • Next, add the Arborio rice.  You will notice that the rice quickly absorbs any liquid from the onions and the rest of the oil.
  • Continue to stir the rice for about 4 minutes until it becomes toasted in the pan.  You will notice that the risotto becomes opaque.
  • Now comes the fun part – add the wine!  It will sizzle and steam, and smell like pure heaven.  The red wine will also impart a beautiful purple color to the risotto.  Immediately add a ladle of warm chicken stock as well, and stir until the liquid is absorbed.
  • Continue to add stock, one ladle at a time, waiting for the liquid to be absorbed each time before adding more.  After each addition you will notice the rice becomes more tender and creamy each time.  Be patient with the process and it should be done after about 15 minutes of ladling and stirring.

wine-risotto

Your wine selection is key to the success of this recipe.  Whatever wine you choose will be the dominate flavor of the dish, since it is absorbed into the rice itself. I loved the 2009 Principi di Butera Nero d’Avola and it was easy to track down back here in the states.  I also suggest using a nice extra-virgin olive oil and grating your own Parmesan cheese.  Italian cuisine is all about celebrating the beauty and quality of ingredients.

We enjoyed this recipe as a first course or “primi piatti”  in Italy.  This recipe should serve about 6 as a first course, or 4 as a main dish.  Mangia bene!

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Red Wine Risotto

3 cups chicken stock, hot
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry red wine
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for finished dish

In a small saucepan, heat chicken stock.  Keep warm while making risotto. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened but not brown, about 8 minutes.  Once the onions are translucent, add the rice and stir until toasted, about 4 minutes.

Add the wine and one ladle of the warm stock, stirring until absorbed.  Continue adding the stock, one ladle at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more.  Cook until the rice is tender and creamy, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the butter and cheese until melted.  Serves 6 as a first course. Grate extra Parmesan cheese over risotto before serving, if desired.

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