Cauliflower Risotto (Risotto al Cavolfiore)

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We love risotto and so I think of new risotto recipes on a regular basis. The basis of almost each risotto is risotto rice, onion, stock, white wine, butter, and parmigiano. The type of stock and other ingredients added determine the type of risotto. The keys to good risotto are homemade stock and taking the time to stir the risotto while slowly adding the stock.

For this cauliflower risotto, half of the cauliflower is pureed to give the risotto a full creamy cauliflower flavor, whereas the other half is kept as florets for an interesting look and texture. I used vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian, but homemade chicken stock would also be lovely. Here’s what I did…

Ingredients

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For 2 servings

400 grams (.9 lb) cauliflower florets

130 grams (2/3 cup) risotto rice (carnaroli, vialone nano, or arborio)

750 ml (3 cups) homemade vegetable stock

1 small onion, minced

60 ml (1/4 cup) dry white wine

dash of freshly grated nutmeg

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

salt and freshly ground white pepper

3 Tbsp butter

Preparation

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Heat up the vegetable stock. Add a bit of salt if there is no salt in the stock yet. (Only a bit of salt, as the stock will be reduced in the risotto.) Cook the cauliflower florets in the stock until they are barely tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

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Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp of butter in a wide shallow thick-bottomed pan and add the onion. Sauté over low heat until the onion is soft and fragrant without coloring the onion, about 10 minutes.

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When the cauliflower is barely tender, take it out of the stock with a strainer. Keep the stock hot over low heat.

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Reserve half of the cauliflower.

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Puree the other half of the cauliflower with a blender.

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Add the rice to the onion.

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Toast the rice over medium heat for a couple of minutes.

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Add the white wine, and stir until it has been absorbed by the rice.

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Add a ladle of the hot stock, and stir until it has been absorbed by the rice. Keep adding stock and stirring for about 10 minutes.

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Now add the cauliflower puree.

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Keep adding hot stock and stirring until the rice is cooked to your liking, about 16-18 minutes total cooking time.

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Add the remaining tablespoon of butter, some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, and a dash of freshly grated nutmeg. Stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Turn off the heat and allow the risotto to rest for a couple of minutes.

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Reheat the reserved cauliflower florets in the microwave while the risotto rests. Carefully stir about half of the cauliflower florets into the risotto and reserve the remaining florets for garnish.

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Serve the cauliflower risotto on preheated plates, garnished with cauliflower florets and some more freshly grated parmigiano.

Flashback


There is a juicy tender sea bass fillet hidden under that lovely tomato sauce. It has been poached in that tomato sauce, made of fresh tomatoes, capers, and olives.

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19 thoughts on “Cauliflower Risotto (Risotto al Cavolfiore)

  1. Your recipes are mostly spot on Stefan, but this time there is something ‘wrong’. It is a very common mistake and I admit to having made it myself too. Stiring of risotto after adding stock is close to useless, it is the stiring while heating the rice before you add stock that is important! The function of stiring the risotto is in fact rubbing the rice against eachother to release the starch (from the endosperm in the kernel of the rice). After adding the stock there is hardly any friction anymore, so the stiring has become useless. A second common assumption is that adding wine (acid) helps the rice to release its starch, but in fact it slows down the cooking process i.e. making risotto without wine will be faster. Adding the wine to the stock has the same effect as adding the wine before the stock. Source: Harold McGee.

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    • Hi Timo,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. This is how most Italians have been making risotto for generations, but I am always open to what science has to teach us.
      You are right that what is important about stirring the rice is to release the starch, and this happens the most right before adding the next ladle of stock. However, you also need to stir right after adding the stock to incorporate it homogeneously into the rice. And so if you add stock little by little, which you should, you end up stirring almost constantly anyway. If you add a larger quantity of stock, you are correct that you can stop stirring after it has been incorporated and until most of the stock has been absorbed.
      I don’t think adding the wine helps to release the starch, so that is not why I add it first. Adding the wine first helps to make sure that the alcohol evaporates. Also, I do not always use up all of the stock so adding the wine to the stock may mean that not all of the wine will end up in the risotto. You are right that wine ‘slows down’ the cooking process, as the acid from the wine helps to keep the grains of rice whole. (The opposite trick is to add baking soda to the cooking water of vegetables to make the water alkaline and thus make the vegetables go soft more quickly.) A longer cooking time is actually a good thing with risotto, because it allows more flavor of the stock to be incorporated into the rice. This is also why I generally use more than the common 3:1 ratio of stock to rice. I just checked Harold McGee’s book “Keys to Good Cooking” to make sure, but my recipe follows his advice exactly. Did he release any new advice on risotto that I haven’t seen yet?

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  2. Hi Stefan, my comment was primarily about the stirring part not the wine part. The wine part I added as it is mentioned by McGee as a common misunderstanding. It is the stirring when no stock is added that has to most effect throughout the whole cooking process. Stirring after adding stock, even when most of the stock has evaporated, has much less effect, the rice will cook anyway. The fact that most people do something in a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right way, it is the way they are used to. McGee often debunked ‘traditional’ approaches;-) PS Many thanks for all the sous-vide write-ups, great stuff!

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    • Intersting discussion! There is so much confusion and so many fables around that the topic deserves to be researched scientifically one day.
      Another function of stirring than describes by you is preventing the rice from sticking to the pan. In her thoroughly researched and recommended book Tutto Risotto (only in Dutch I believe), Florine Boucher describes 6 techniques for cooking risotto. Some of them use more stock at the beginning and include stirring only for a part of the process. Stirring when using those recipes when there is a lot of stock in the pan indeed has no function. So, stirring or not and when depends on the technique and (hence) the desired consistency.

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      • Thanks, Jeroen. I always loved Florine Boucher’s recipes in NRC and should probably get that book.
        I like my risotto with individual grains that have some bite but are not hard, and with a creamy consistency to the whole. I don’t like it too wet.
        (Interestingly, it is very difficult to find good risotto in restaurants in Italy. On the one hand I understand because it would be quite labor intensive to make risotto to order, but on the other hand it is not what I expect in Italy. Often it is basically rice in a sauce, which is not risotto.)

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        • I am afraid you have to fight your way in to the homes, as in restaurants the risotto is likely to be pre-cooked.
          Risotto should always be al dente, and the creamy consistency is called all ‘onda pigra, the favorite of rural regions. Indeed the usual technique to achieve this requires constant stirring as you add stock little by little. You see I learned a lot by reading this book 🙂

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  3. I also am a longtime risotto lover and you have given me a new path to try: oft make mushroom, leek and even pumpkin now but have not attempted cauliflower and most certainly shall. Personally I do stir all along the 16-18 minute line . . .besides giving me the result I want it is almost a meditative exercise for me 🙂 !

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  4. For the cauliflower, I was thinking that it might be nice to roast the half that you don’t blend up in order to give it a variety of flavor and texture profiles…

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  5. Lovely recipe. I particularly like the use of white pepper. I made a roasted cauliflower soup last week and the white pepper made it into the most wonderful thing! I must try this risotto. We eat them regularly too, and it’s always good to have new versions to try.

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  6. The recipe and suggestions make this something I sure want to try.

    However I am relieved that stirring can be intermittent! Playing host, running bar, providing scintillating conversation – somehow there is not a lot of time to be standing in one place focused on one pot!

    I have had great success with sous vide risotto and I might try this recipe that way. (With apologies to those who think it can ONLY be made in a pan. 🙂 )

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  7. Although she hasn’t made risotto with cauliflower, your method is the very same that Zia utilizes. You’ve mentioned that before but it’s still quite surprising for me to see all the steps laid out. Change the pots and utensils and your photos could easily be taken in her kitchen. I cannot wait to share this with her, Stefan. Thanks!

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  8. Stefan – I tried this SV style. It was very good. Followed your method up until the wine was absorbed and then added rice, puree and stock to SV bag. I did this in the morning and chilled the bag until I was ready to finish the process in the evening. It was only about 5 minutes to assemble and finish the dish. Did it take less time in total? Probably not. But it certainly enabled me to quickly produce a great result in very little time at the end.

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  9. Pingback: Pheasant Sous-Vide (Breast, Leg Confit And Its Own Jus) | Stefan's Gourmet Blog

  10. I have made my risotto in a pressure cooker for years. It turns out AMAZING!! 3/4C rice, 4C stock, seasonings, splash of white wine,,,,,,,5 minutes…….done!! I saute my onions and anything else in the cooker first, remove it to add back later, then add oil & saute rice, add stock & any seasonings, put on the lid & let ‘er rip!! Anything, like veggies, added to the cooking process with the rice will turn to mush, so I add them back at the end along with cheese & a dollop of butter. I pressure cook the smashed garlic cloves with the rice so it disintegrates & flavors the rice. Just remember…..anything you don’t want mushy……add back at the end.

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