International Day of Italian Cuisines

Risotto is slow by character

Il Riso

"Remember that for the risotto you will have to wait about 20 minutes". This statement that bothers some guests and makes them change their order is for me exactly that which confirms my desire to choose rice. I love rice because it is slow by character, in anticipation of all fashionable movements of taste. It’s also democratic, it makes for few difficulties”. Gianni Mura, in his introduction to Mario Musoni's book: Rice is Born in Water and it Dies in Wine. Mario Musoni is a chef-traveller. Though he is based in Montescano (Pavia), where with his wife Patricia, runs an excellent restaurant (al Pino), in recent years he has increased his trips abroad. His experience and talent is very much appreciated by Italian restaurants around the world. Therefore, he can now be considered to be a permanent quality educator of Italian Cuisine and its traditions. With the years Mario has become one of the most venerated experts in risotto in Italy. The surprising thing is that, despite the fact that he is a scrupulous follower of Italian culinary traditions, when it comes to risotto, he has maverick theories.

Mario Musoni
Chef and GVCI member Mario Musoni

While all the GVCI chefs will be celebrating the traditional risotto alla milanese according to the original recipe, we think it is appropriate to pay a tribute to Mario. He represents an exception, an honourable one.The 2009 International day of Italian Cusines is perhaps the biggest international celebration of risotto, and Mario has spent most of his life promoting it. Here a brief note written by himself for itchefs-GVCI.
“The title of my last book about rice is Rice is Born in Water and Dies in Wine, and as of the fourth edition, in the preface can be found: “I was born with my feet soaked in a rice paddy. I come from San Zenone Po, the lowest lowland on the Right Bank of Father Po, where once you could only find rice paddies, frogs, mosquitoes as big as birds and cooks. Yes, a tradition of cooks. Many of them have directed prestigious kitchens around the world; the number one of them has to be the great Gualtiero Marchesi. Then we have given birth to one of the greatest of the great journalists, Gianni Brera, one of the best food commentators Italy has ever had. Throughout the years, I have studied in depth a technique of preparing risotto that has brought me excellent critiques from the press. So let me explain it to you: I don’t sauté the rice because I would have to use a fat which could be headed to over 100º C and so would remain in the preparation and would make the risotto too heavy; I don’t use onion; every risotto would, more or less, have the taste of onion (and if not of scallion); I don’t toast the rice; the burnt grains would form a crust around themselves and wouldn’t let the starch, the creamy and flavourful part, come out.

"Therefore this is my recipe"
Risotto alla Milanese, four servings;
300 gr. Carnaroli (or Arborio) rice. Vialone rice is no good because it is not superfine and it does not retain the desired effect of the cooking. Furthermore, the grains are tiny.
white meat broth
20 pistils of saffron (Iranian or Spanish are the best)
8 marrow bone slices
50 gr. grana or parmigiano cheese, not aged
8 cubes of oven-stewed veal shank (ossobuco), with gremolata (chopped lemon peel, parsley, garlic and other desired fresh herbs, peppered and salted)

“Place the rice, dry, in a pre-heated gold-plated copper pan; a little at a time, bathe the rice with the broth, heated just to the point of boiling; add the saffron pistils. Bring to point of readiness in 16 minutes, remove from heat, it should be all’onda, add the butter and cheese and give a quick mantecatura. Burn the slices of bone marrow in a small anti-stick frying pan a few seconds, until golden and place in the centre of the plate. Surround with two cubes of shank and its broth, and serve.”