We love risotto and I’m always trying to come up with new recipes. This spinach risotto turned out really nice, and it was even nicer with the garnishes of pancetta and sous-vide egg-yolk. But the risotto is delicious by itself, so for a vegetarian version you could easily leave out the pancetta. However, using homemade pancetta and pairing this with a great wine took this dish from good to outstanding.
During our culinary tour of Italy I made it a point to sample risotto along the way, and noticed that even in Italy many restaurants do not do a very good job. Good risotto should be evenly cooked, with some bite to the rice but not crunchy, and the sauce and the rice should become ‘one’ in the sense that a good risotto should not resemble a mixture of rice and sauce but a unity between them. For this it is needed to stir the risotto and add the stock bit by bit instead of everything at once. It only takes 15-20 minutes of your time and it is well worth it. You can find more risotto recipes in my recipe index.
Spinach has a bit of an astringent taste. For a stronger spinach flavor, add the the spinach towards the end of cooking and add less cream. For a more mellow spinach flavor, add the spinach in the beginning (as shown below) and add more cream if you like.
200 grams (1 cup) risotto rice such as carnaroli
500 grams (1.1 lbs) spinach
750 ml (3 cups) homemade vegetable stock
1 small onion, minced
80 ml (1/3 cup) heavy cream, or to taste
60 grams (6 Tbsp) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
salt and freshly ground black pepper
80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine
2 Tbsp butter
60 grams (2 oz) pancetta, diced
2 egg yolks, cooked sous-vide for 1 hour at 65ºC/149ºF.
Meanwhile, heat up the vegetable stock and keep it simmering.
Stir until the stock has been absorbed. Once it has, add another ladle of stock and stir again. Keep repeating this for about 16-18 minutes, tasting the rice towards the end of the cooking time to test for doneness. If you run out of vegetable stock, use hot water instead.
Turn off the heat and allow the risotto to rest.
Meanwhile, gently fry the diced pancetta in a dry pan (without any added fat). I prefer the pancetta to have only crispy edges instead of being completely crisped up, as it has much more flavor that way. Especially if it has a lot of flavor to begin with, such as when you use good artisan or homemade pancetta.
Take the eggs out of the sous-vide, break them, discard the eggwhite, and roughly chop the yolks. They have a velvety texture when cooked sous-vide at 65ºC/149ºF, so chopping is perhaps not the best word to describe this action.
We enjoyed this with an Italian red called Rosso Piceno, from almost the same area as Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and made from 50% sangiovese and 50% montepulciano. It was a Villa Bucci Riserva Rosso 2004, aged in wood and then plenty of years in the bottle. I remembered that when I bought this wine at the winery in 2008 it had a note of spinach it its nose, and that is why I picked it. It had become very elegant over the years and was indeed a wonderful match.
I suppose there are not many cooks around who are as sous-vide minded as I am to come up with ramen with sous-vide chicken. Of course the nice thing is that the chicken in this ramen is not the usual dry flavorless stuff, but tender, tasty and juicy.