Mushroom & Pea Risotto with White Truffle Oil
Risotto, arguably the most feared of all pastas. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that risotto is a hard dish to get right, and I believed it because I’ve had my fair share of bad risotto. Before attempting to make the dish on my own, I assumed it was beyond my skill scope. It was a dish I enjoyed only when dining out, a dish that I had to order if it was on the menu because cooking it at home was not an option. However, one thing led to another, I married a man from Italy and I found myself standing over a pot and crossing my fingers. And you know what? The first version wasn’t half bad, and the second attempt was actually pretty great. My lessons that day were a.) sometimes things aren’t as complicated as others make them out to be and b.) the only requirements needed for good risotto are patience and strong shoulder muscles.
One thing I’ve learned from immersing myself in Italian culture is that the simplest ingredient combinations can yield the biggest results. I tend to overcomplicate things and try to create bigger and bolder flavors, but there are times you don’t mess with the classics and strictly adhere to the ‘less is more’ mantra. I will try to add garlic to any and everything but for a dish like this, with the strong umami of black truffles, mushrooms and pecorino and the tang of lemon juice, sometimes its best to just leave it alone and let the flavors speak for themselves.
Let’s take a moment and talk about truffles, and not the chocolate kind. Italians LOVE their truffles, in fact my husband has family members that are known truffle ‘hunters’ and have dogs trained to sniff out the fungi in the woods of central Italy around his childhood home. Truffles are a member of the mushroom family and have a strong, distinctive earthy flavor that you either love or hate. There are no ‘take them or leave them’ opinions when it comes to truffles, and their rarity is what makes them so elusive (and expensive). There are two types of truffles on the market, black (more common, harvested throughout fall and early winter) and white (very rare, very expensive, and only available in late October through early December). Or you can skip the seasons and cheat by buying an infused truffle oil, as I did for this risotto.
The secret to the perfect risotto.
The characteristics of bad risotto: soft, mushy, flavorless. The characteristics of good risotto: sticky, cooked ‘al dente’ with a slightly firm texture, packed with flavor. To get the perfect risotto you must first understand the risotto cooking process. Risotto rice is a starchy, pasta-like rice that retains its firmness if cooked slowly; it’s important to choose the right rice, with carnaroli being the gold standard. The rice is stirred into a pot with other cooked ingredients and a small amount of liquid is added in 1/2 cup intervals and allowed to slowly soak into the rice. The key is to continually stir and add small amounts of liquid as the rice dries, keeping it moist (hate that word) but not wet. As the rice cooks, it become larger and stickier, and at about the 20 minute mark (give or take a few minutes) you will have a perfectly cooked risotto. So prepare your shoulder for 20 minutes of stirring; your arm will be sore the next day but it will be worth it.
The only requirements needed for good risotto are patience and strong should muscles.
Mushroom & Pea Risotto with White Truffle Oil
Risotto doesn’t have to be hard! This mushroom and peas risotto with white truffle oil is as easy and stir, stir, stir.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 25 mins
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4
- Category: Main Dish
- 1-1.5 quarts broth (vegetable or chicken) stock
- 3-4 cups mushrooms (any variety), chopped
- 1-2 tsp olive oil
- 2-3 tsp truffle oil
- 2-3 cups peas
- 4 cups risotto
- salt and pepper to taste
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino (or more, pecorino is delicious)
1. Bring about 10-12 cups of broth to medium heat in a medium saucepan, with a 1/2 cup measuring cup at the ready.
2. In the meantime, heat olive oil in large pot or dutch oven to medium heat and add mushrooms and peas. Cook 2-4 minutes, or until mushrooms begin to soften and release liquid.
3. Add risotto to pot and stir to coat with vegetables, cooking about 1 minute until rice begins to dry. Then add truffle oil to pot and allow rice to soak up the truffle flavor, about 1 minute.
4. When rice begins to dry, slowly stir in 1/2-3/4 cup warm broth to rice. Continue stirring rice until well coated. The key is to soak but not over-wet rice, allowing rice to slowly absorb liquid.
5. When rice begins to dry again, add more liquid and slowly stir. Keep stirring in small amounts of liquid and stirring rice for about 15-17 minutes.
6. When rice is larger and beginning to get stickier, taste to ensure it is nearly al dente. The finished risotto should NOT be mushy, but have a firmness and slight crunch mouthfeel. When the rice is almost at desired doneness, add pinch of salt, crack of pepper and juice of one lemon. Then stir in pecorino to lightly coat in cheese. Take rice off heat, and serve immediately with a side of lemon and a small amount of grated cheese on top.