Risotto with Witlof and Pancetta (Risotto con Radicchio e Pancetta)

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We love risotto and so it is fitting that the 600th post on this blog is a risotto recipe. I had just finished another batch of homemade pancetta and was looking for a recipe to use it with. In one of Biba Caggiano’s books I found a recipe for risotto with radicchio and pancetta. Radicchio is not generally available around here, but it’s white cousin witlof (also known as chicory or Belgian endive) is. The combination of sweet pancetta with bitter leaves works well, as is also evident from Orecchiette with Endive and Pancetta. This dish came out great, as the witlof becomes very creamy. Rather than a combination of flavors, this risotto ends up as one delicious flavor with great depth. Of course it helps that homemade pancetta tastes better than store-bought, but it will still be great with regular pancetta.

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It got even better when I decided to stir in some raw witlof, which added freshness and crunch to the creamy risotto. I ended up using more meat (pancetta) and more vegetables (witlof) than Biba’s original recipe, which is what I often do with pasta and risotto recipes to reduce the amount of carbs we eat.

As pancetta is quite salty, it is important to use homemade chicken stock for this, to which you have not added any salt. The risotto would otherwise end up way too salty. Making risotto is not hard and very rewarding. This recipe is worth trying!

Ingredients

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For 2 servings as ‘piatto unico’ (i.e. full dinner in one course)

100 grams (3.5 oz) pancetta

400 grams (.9 lbs) witlof/chicory/Belgian endive or radicchio

130 grams (2/3 cup) risotto rice

600 ml (2 1/2 cups) homemade chicken stock

80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine

1 small onion or shallot, minced

3 Tbsp butter

4 Tbsp freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

salt

Preparation

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Melt 2 Tbsp of the butter in a heavy-bottomed wide pan and sauté the onion until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Heat up the chicken stock and keep it simmering.

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Meanwhile, cut the witlof in quarters and remove the tough and bitter core.

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Cut the witlof into small strips. Dice the pancetta.

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Add the pancetta to the onions.

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Stir for a minute until the pancetta starts to color.

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Add the rice to the pancetta.

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Toast the rice until it is hot.

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Add half of the witlof and stir briefly to incorporate.

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Add the white wine and cook over medium heat, stirring, until it has evaporated.

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Add a ladle of hot chicken stock.

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Cook, stirring, until the stock has been absorbed by the rice. Keep adding more stock and keep stirring until the rice is cooked al dente and you have used up all the stock. (If you run out of stock, you can use some hot water instead.) This will take about 18 minutes.

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Turn off the heat. Add the remaining butter and 2 Tbsp of the grated parmigiano.

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Stir to mix (this is called mantecare) and allow to rest for a couple of minutes.

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Serve on warm plates with the remaining raw witlof on top (more than shown here in the photo).

Wine pairing

This works well with a full-bodied unoaked dry Italian white with some nice bitter notes, such as a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi or a Greco di Tufo. Pairing the bitterness of the witlof with the bitterness of the wine can be tricky, so you may have to try a few wines to find a good match.

Flashback


The combination of veal scaloppine with roasted eggplant, mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, and parmigiano is absolutely delicious. I’ll have to come up with a nicer presentation to serve this at a dinner party.

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