It would be rare to find an Italian cookbook without a delicious risotto recipe, and for good reason. The warming dish is beloved worldwide for its buttery texture, and it holds a surprisingly long history behind it.
Easily enriched by a wide variety of flavours, such as saffron, parmesan, seafood and truffle, risotto has proved to be a hearty, versatile dish, embraced by chefs all over the world, including our own Creative Director of Food, Fulvio Pierangelini.
The History of Risotto
The arrival of rice in Europe can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when Arabs first brought the grain over to Italy, specifically the picturesque Mediterranean island of Sicily. They soon began to grow the plant across the country, discovering that the Mediterranean humidity made the perfect conditions to grow shorter-grained rice.
The short-grained rice soon became popular among the wealthy classes of Italy and once demand grew and prices fell it soon became a staple of all Italian households.
Myths and Legends
Legend dictates that the iconic Risotto alla Milanese was discovered by chance in 1574 on the wedding day of a glassblower’s daughter marrying her father’s assistant, nicknamed ‘Zafferano’ due to his penchant for staining glass with saffron. On the day of the wedding, his friends secretly added a spoonful of saffron to the wedding meal of short-grained rice and butter and a new dish was born.
Though charming, the legend is just that. In truth, the first mention of risotto as a dish was not until 1829 when it popped up in a Milanese cookbook.
Fulvio's Guide to the Perfect Risotto
Musing on the creation and cooking of risotto, Fulvio Pierangelini says, “A risotto is like a scornful girl. It demands care, watching, savoir-faire, skilled hands, attention, respect, sweet gestures that make you feel love and affection. As soon as you neglect her, just like a risotto, she abandons you or she changes, she becomes something else, she loses the magic and enchantment.”
In the heart of Rome, the creative chef takes the classic dish and uses this philosophy to reinvent it with rich, hearty flavours that prove to be a delight.
Among the enchanting scenery of Le Jardin de Russie, indulge in Pierangelini’s risotto with asparagus, saffron and Trapanese pesto, a delicious fusion of flavours elegantly combined in the creamy risotto.