Risotto di Lenticchie, Cavolo a Punta, Pancetta e Ricotta Salata
Risotto with Lentils, Pointed Cabbage, Bacon and Salted Ricotta
Some days, you just don't feel well- and this was one of those days for me. It was sunny outside and pleasant looking, but I just felt plain tired and not in the mood for being out and about. It was a day where my bed seemed a good place to be and a little rest from the busy working week was the most important thing. Well... the second most important anyway. The most important thing was- what was I going to make to eat?
Obviously, you have seen the images of my little meal already, so it was plainly a risotto. For an American, it may be macaroni cheese or meatloaf, an Englishman may prefer a pie or a stew... But this Sicilian guy gets that nice, warm feeling in his tummy when he tucks into a nice, hearty risotto..
Did you get a nice, long look at that close-up? Yes, it does look pretty good doesn't it? Simple, rustic, honest to goodness, unpretentious, healthy and tasty food. What's not to like? I am not going to act like it is complicated or refined to make, or that it is the absolute pinnacle of culinary delights- but it is pretty damned tasty and that's for sure!
The main ingredients are all listed above and the method is pretty standard- but this is basically how I did it. I chopped celery, onion and carrots into a fine dice and fried them together with diced bacon, using no other fat than the bacons own. After 2-3 minutes, I added the Arborio rice and the lentils and stirred everything well, so that they also got nicely coated. After a further minute or two, I deglazed the saucepan with some white wine and added some finely chopped garlic. I didn't add it earlier, as it tends to brown too much otherwise and then it becomes bitter- and we don't want that!
I then added a ladle full of vegetable broth and stirred it into the rice... you know how it goes with risotto- broth + stirring + more broth + more stirring... That much is clear. But in the meantime I got busy with the "pointed cabbage". At least, that is the name that google offered me when I tried to find the translation of the German "Spitzkohl". As far as I know, this is a cabbage that only grows here, and the name is derived from the shape, as it grows into a huge, pointed cone-shape. It is much milder and more tender than regular cabbage, it cooks much quicker and does not have that typical unpleasant smell. Sounds good, right? That's because it IS.
I chopped the cabbage into thin strips and sautéed it in a little clarified butter until it changed color and began to wilt. I then added salt and a pinch of sugar, a splash of white wine and a hint of nutmeg. Then I put on the lid and reduced the heat to a slow simmer.
By now the rice had been on for around 15 minutes. I added a good splash of milk and a little nutmeg to the rice too. Sounds strange, but there you go. I just wanted to get the flavors a little milder and creamier- but of course, without adding cream... you know me! Next, came a couple of tablespoons of grated salted ricotta cheese. You will have noticed that I haven't mentioned adding any salt to the rice yet- and that is because the bacon, the vegetable stock and the salty ricotta cheese should have more than enough seasoning of their own. What I did add though was pepper of course and some very finely chopped celery leaves- these give a GREAT amount of flavor and go wonderfully with the lentils.
Next I added the shredded cabbage to the lentils and a little olive oil. I stirred it well and let it sit for another minute or two. Ricotta cheese does not melt very easily, so it needs that extra bit of time for the cheese to integrate properly into the risotto and to make it nice and creamy... but as soon as that happens- all you need to do is to serve it up and enjoy! I garnished mine with a little crispy bacon and a last light sprinkle of grated salted ricotta. And yes- eating a nice hot bowl of rice like this IS a comfort! Buon Apetito!