Sunday, 27 November 2011

La Cosa Nostra

Risotto Siciliano con Osso Buco di Vitello
Sicilian Risotto with Veal Osso Buco

Yes indeed- "cosa nostra", which means "our thing", really is the right name for this dish.
Because it IS our thing- risotto, the way we make it back home in Sicily. None of this sautéeing in butter of rice and onions, no deglazing with white wine- no, no- this is the ultimate in Italian comfort food, let me tell you! And this is the way we make it!

One of the main differences between this risotto and most others, is that we do not start by frying onion and adding the rice till it becomes translucent and then adding wine and broth, but we start off with a tomato sauce which we bring to the boil and then add the rice to that.
So I made a simple sauce, starting with a "sofritto" of celery, carrots and onions. After frying these together for 1-2 minutes, I added some tomato paste and garlic and fried it for another 2-3 minutes, before deglazing the saucepan with a tiny splash of red wine and some boiling water. I added a small handfull of dried basil, a little oregano, a bay leaf, salt, pepper and a hint of nutmeg, then reduced the temperature to a slow simmer whilst I prepared the veal.

I dropped the veal shank (osso buco), into boiling water, with a carrot, a stick of celery and half an onion- these would go to flavor the broth. I added salt, pepper and a bay leaf and let this simmer for an hour or so. After an hour in the water, I transferred the meat to the tomato sauce and let it simmer there for a further hour- that way I had flavorful broth and flavorful sauce. Traditionally, you would use left-over sauce, which would save a lot of time in the prep work!

Okay- so now that we have a tasty broth and a tasty sauce, we can begin to make a tasty risotto! Set the veal to one side and bring the sauce and the broth to the boil. Add your risotto rice, 1 cupful per person, to the boiling sauce and stir! At this point I added about a cupful of frozen peas. You can use fresh if you have them (and if they are sweet- usually they are just green bullets!)- but I think frozen are fine and definitely the easiest and best in this case. So now you can begin added the hot broth to the risotto, one ladleful at a time in the time honored manner. It's not difficult!

Around 5 minutes before the rice is done,and is "al onda" as they say- which means when you push it back with the back of your spoon, that is gently flows back like a wave, or "onda", add some grated parmesan cheese- or as I did, salted, grated ricotta. Give it a good stir, put on the lid, turn off the heat and let it sit for 2-3 minutes. Finished!

Serve with a fresh basil leaf or two, a little pepperoncino- and get ready to taste MY ultimate comfort food! Forget your lasagne or macaroni cheese or whatever... this is the real, Sicilian Deal!


  1. Well, you learn something new every day, as the old saying goes. I never knew about the SIcilian way of making risotto. It sounds nice—I'll have to try it that way!

  2. I will be cautious in claiming this Frank... but I am 99% sure if you make it this way, that you will find it to be the most delicious risotto you have ever eaten! I made it for friends in the USA last year and we were just sitting at the table and smiling and grinning and laughing out loud- it is almost like there are no words you can use to describe how GOOD it is! Let me know if you do try it! And let me know if you liked it!