Who doesn’t love a bowl of creamy, silky, luxurious rice? This Fennel Risotto recipe extracts all the magical aniseed flavour of one of life’s most wonderful vegetables. It’s a fragrant, unique and quintessentially Italian risotto.
I'm a big cheerleader of fennel - I just love the fragrant aniseed flavour. Nothing says Italy more, in my opinion, than the underlying presence of fennel. I use the seeds in almost everything I cook and I love nothing more than a crunchy fennel salad - (incidentally, have you tried my Fennel & Apple Salad or my Fennel & Orange Salad? You should!).
But fennel is also great when cooked. It's a splendid idea to replace onion with chopped fennel, to enhance the flavour of any dish. It's this method I use it in this delicious risotto recipe - the sautéed fennel replaces onion and permeates the entire dish with a subtle aniseed twist. It makes for a unique, authentic Italian risotto.
What makes the perfect risotto?
How to cook risotto is a polarising subject to say the least! Italians are very very very (to infinity) particular about how it is cooked and served – from the ingredients that go into it, to how it should look and taste. I have to agree, risotto done right is a thing of wonder, done wrong it actually makes me gently angry. But fear not... a good risotto is not difficult to master, you just need to know HOW to serve it, then you're half way there. It's best to follow these rules and you'll end up with an authentic risotto that any Italian grandmother would be proud of.
Authentic risotto IS:
Made using the right rice.
A soupy consistency.
Soft, with a little al-dente bite to the grain, but not grainy.
Now, all this aside, in essence, a proper risotto is actually a simple dish to prepare. It's all about the texture – rich, creamy and luxurious. This is achieved in part by using the correct rice variety, and there are three which are considered the best to use.
Carnaroli (shown above) - the preferred rice throughout Italy - Carnaroli is a medium grain, with a high starch content, meaning it holds its shape well in cooking, delivering the creamiest texture while retaining a nice bite to the grain. It's the king of risotto rices.
Vialone Nano - Popular in the Veneto region of Italy, this grain has a high starch content, holds its shape well and produces a nice creamy texture. It's super absorbent too, so the grains are plump and meaty.
Arborio - an easy to find rice with a short grain and good starch content - making it a great option for risotto. Arborio isn't as robust as Carnaroli or Vialone Nano, and can overcook easily - so needs your attention!
Other rice varieties, if you can find them, which make good options for risotto include Baldo, Maratelli, Padano and Roma. Never use basmati, jasmine, long grain etc. Never. Ever.
Say "no grazie" to stodgy risotto
Stodgy risotto is an abomination. Just ask any Italian. The texture should be light, creamy and almost soupy. Anything different isn't risotto. Stodgy risotto generally happens if it has been overcooked or has sat too long before serving. The longer it sits, the more the rice continues to absorb the liquid... the stodgier it gets.
I always serve my risotto immediately. Guests are pre-warned to sit down and be ready and I have been known to shout if this does not happen!
Risotto is not a dish to serve cold at a BBQ. Don't do it. If you want to serve a cold rice, make a delicious pilaf instead - try this recipe for Moroccan Silverbeet with Rice.
So, now that you know how, you have the know how! Check out the video below to see for yourself how delicious this super tasty and simple risotto looks and make it for yourself to experience just how delicious it is in real life! Buon appetito.
The best way to use up leftover risotto is to create another of Italy's most wonderful gifts to the World; Supplì! You may have heard of arancini, delicious balls of rice, stuffed and coated with breadcrumbs then deep fried to crunchy perfection. Well, Supplì are essentially the same! Little crisp delights, stuffed with mozzarella cheese. If you want to impress yourself, and everyone around you, whip up a batch of these and they'll love you forever. Get the recipe for Supplì!
Heat the stock in a pan until just about to boil. Reduce the heat to very low to keep hot next to you as you make the risotto.
Heat the oil in a large, deep pan over a moderate heat until just hot. Add the fennel and fennel seeds and fry gently for 4-5 minutes until soft and lightly golden.
Add the rice and stir fry for 1-2 minutes until well coated with the oil and fennel. Pour in the wine and let is sizzle then reduce for 2-3 minutes until almost gone.
Ladle into the rice about 3-4 spoonfuls of stock until just submerged. Let this come to a light simmer. Stir the rice as it cooks to release the starch. This will create the creaminess.Let most of the liquid be absorbed by the rice before spooning in more hot stock. Repeat this process of adding stock and reducing for around 20 minutes. The rice should be cooked at 20 minutes. Soft, with a little bite, but not grainy.When cooked, remove from the heat - you should have a lightly soupy consistency.
Add the butter and cheese and beat vigorously into the rice. This will achieve a lovely rich, creamy consistency. It should be soupy and creamy and not dry, like a regular rice.
Spoon into bowls and garnish with more cheese, pepper and some fennel leaves.
Creamy risotto! You need to mantecare!!To create the most wonderful creamy risotto, butter and cheese is beaten into the dish at the end of cooking. It's an essential stage to most risottos (with the exception of seafood).This stage is known as "Mantecare" - and without exception, when I cook risotto I repeatedly shout (in an old lady Italian accent) the words "Mantecare! Mantecare! Mantecare!" as I finish the dish.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 526Calories from Fat 225
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 12g75%
Vitamin A 1379IU28%
Vitamin C 7mg8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.