"Seasonal" Risoni Pasta, with Leeks, Parsnips and Gorgonzola Cheese
I know that basically, the ingredients I used in the dish are available almost year-round, but somethings we only want to eat at certain times- either through force of habit or tradition. And one such ingredient is the humble but so flavorful parsnip.
It is the time of year when we like to add its rich, earthy flavor to stews, casseroles and soups- and rightly so! Especially when combined with contrasting flavors, like the sweet mildness of leek and zucchini and the pungent creaminess of Gorgonzola... what a powerhouse of comfort, all in one dish that this turned out to be!
This made a nice change from a regular risotto and was a little easier to make... it didn't rely on having to have a rich broth or stock to make it, or continuous care, attention and stirring- just the few, good ingredients and 30 minutes of time. Which makes this a great alternative on one of those week-day nights when you think you have nothing in the house. Plus- you will only need to wash-up one pan after making this, which is always a good thing, right?!!
To make 2 decent portions, I needed 1 small leek, 1 small carrot, 2 small parsnips, 1 small zucchini, about 2 tablespoons worth of diced Gorgonzola cheese, 1 cup of risoni and a little fresh parsley. So this is pretty frugal in price and just goes to show you that even the smallest quantities of basic ingredients can still go to make a great meal!
I really like how this dish is a self-contained little creation- all of the flavors it needs are right there in one pan... I personally see nothing wrong with occasionally using a prepared stock or soup-cube on occasion, should you not have the time to boil one yourself (and who does?!?!). But by using the classic Italian combination of celery, carrot and onion (the classic Italian "soffritto") you can always create that strong flavor-base that is the first building block of any Italian meal. And with plenty of leek in this dish, you can also do without the onion- after all- they are kissing cousins, right?
Simple prep work is all thats required- the celery, carrot and parsnips get a nice, fine dice and the zucchini and leek nicely and finely sliced- easy stuff!
Simply fry the celery, carrot, leek and parsnips in a little olive oil with a little salt and plenty of pepper for 3-4 minutes, until they all change color and become bright and beautiful.
Once they are nice and glossy and slightly moist, add the risoni and the stalks of the parsley that you are going to add later- you know they are full of great flavor!
Add enough boiling water to cover everything, give it a good stir and reduce to a low, rolling simmer... and go and do something else for the next 15-20 minutes! Like maybe dicing up the Gorgonzola and chopping the parsley- haha! All I am trying to say is that you don't need to be stirring all the time as you would with a risotto- just an occasional glance, stir and maybe a top-up with water should it be needed.
After 20-25 minutes of cooking time in all, the risoni and the vegetables should be nice and tender and ready to have those tender, thin slices of zucchini added, along with most of the chopped parsley and diced gorgonzola... keep a little of each to add before serving, but gently stir everything together now to really bring this dish alive... and whilst you are add it- yes! Some freshly ground nutmeg will do this the world of good too!
And now you're talkin'! Rich and creamy, smooth and savory and delicious! Who cares if it's cold outside if you can enjoy a lovely plate of comforting goodness like this?
Add those few extra pieces of Gorgonzola, a last scatter of fresh parsley and a little freshly ground pepper and your seasonal supper is ready to be served... and enjoyed! Buon appetito!