Saturday, November 22, 2014

As Good as it Gets ~ Great-Grandma's Risotto

Price per serving for two: $1.45

Hard to believe the cost per serving for a meal that you could not get in any restaurant. Over the years, like any good cook, I have been perfecting my recipes and I can tell you that this one is better than grandma's.

Actually, I cook more like my Nona - great grandma Antonia. Why? Maybe because she was a frugal cook like me. She and her husband and seven children lived on the other side of the canal in small Italian neighborhood. It was that same neighborhood where I grew up. They lived frugally, I think everyone did on the westside. There wasn't a lot of processed food back then. With so many mouths to feed, they had very little options to pick from and use. Nona could make soup stock from bones if she had to; and, bone marrow soup happens to be very healthy.

That may sound absurd today given the vast amount of food stuffs in every grocery store. However, frugal cooking is not a thing of the past. With ever increasing inflation and financial demands, families will have to become more frugal. My great grandmother knew that. She knew that keeping a stock as a base, she could add rice one day, pasta another day, bacon or side pork with potatoes or polenta another day; and add diced tomatoes (sometimes roasted in a dry skillet) gives you a whole other eating experience that will keep the husband and kids fed and the household up and running.

So, in the tradition of Nona, you will need to buy one pound of fresh ground breakfast sausage. She would have used any ground meat available but often it was a cheap cut ground (sausage) or chopped in tiny pieces. Basically, you can use breakfast sausage (home mix of pork and spices). Take 1-2 tbs of olive oil in a small skillet melted, sprinkle in some dried herb seasoning and once hot enough, add the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces.

You will boil the rice as you would a pilaf... in a stock. Remember the chicken stock I started last Monday, well this evening is another opportunity to use the last of it. In a small cast iron pot, heat your stock. Add 1 cup of Arborio or a Basmati  rice and cook until most of the fluids disappear. Remove the rice, you can ladle it onto the sausage which should be already fully cooked. Turn off the heat under the sausage and let it rest, with the rice resting on top. Into the cast iron pot, I pour in one small can of roasted/seasoned diced tomatoes (you use fresh tomatoes diced and skillet blackened on the edges with a bit of garlic). Turn up the heat and get it bubbly.

Re-enter the rice and sausage, stir and cover. Add an extra dash of dried herb seasoning - from the pantry list, rosemary, oregano and mint. While the risotto simmers, grate fresh Parmesan which I add to the rice before serving and or also leave on the table in a small dish. Then, set the table and pour the wine. You can also put out hard salami and cheese.

~Tutti a Tavola!

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