Coronavirus Comfort Food – Chianti, Radicchio & Gorgonzola Risotto AKA Purple Risotto

This evening the Italian government just announced that ALL schools in Italy (the entire country!) will be closed until March 15. My son is on his second week at home from school. Thankfully, his school has organized lessons online. Many of us living here in Northern Italy were hopeful that schools would reopen next Monday and that life would return to some resemblance of normalcy. As of today, the total number of cases here is 2706, with 107 fatalities, most of which are here in Lombardy.

In need of comfort food this last week, I instinctively turn to risotto. For me risotto is the perfect comfort food. It’s warm, rich, creamy and can turn a bad day into a holiday. Risotto is king here in the north of Italy. The Po valley is one the world’s most famous rice production areas so it’s no wonder risotto is a specialty of the north.

I chose to make David Rocco’s Chianti, Radicchio & Gorgonzola Risotto. I am a lover of Gorgonzola and what can be better than my favorite cheese with my one of my favorite wines? Did you know that Gorgonzola comes from the town of Gorgonzola near Milan? I hope to make a pilgrimage to this town and ask them for honorary citizenship.

The first time I made this recipe I wasn’t quite sure if I would like it. Although I love Gorgonzola and Chianti, the thought of throwing in bitter tasting radicchio just didn’t appeal. As it turns out the mixture of flavors works really, really well, so well that my husband loves this risotto. I’m convinced that he would eat this every day if I made it.

David Rocco’s Risotto with Chianti, Radicchio and Gorgonzola

4 tbsp (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

2 shallots or 1 medium white onion, minced

1 large head of radicchio, chopped

2 cups (500 ml) Italian rice

5 cups (1.25 L) red wine, preferably Chianti

3 1/2 oz (100 g) Gorgonzola (I used Gorgonzola dolce)

1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I used Grana Padano which works just fine)

Salt and pepper to taste

If you’d like to use less wine, you can cut down the amount by substituting it with vegetable broth. I have made this recipe both ways I prefer to use 3 cups of wine and 2 of vegetable broth.

Heat your frying pan, then heat your olive oil. Add shallots and radicchio and season with salt and pepper. On a medium flame, stir and cook until soft. Add rice and stir until rice becomes translucent.

Add about 1/2 cup (125 ml) of wine, stirring so the rice doesn’t stick. When that’s absorbed, add more, then repeat. If you’re using vegetable broth, alternate between wine and broth. It will take about 15-20 minutes for rice to cook.

Take off of heat and stir in Gorgonzola and Parmigiano. Stir well so cheese is incorporated and melted into the rice and vegetables.

At this point I check to see if the risotto needs more salt. Salt is hard to judge and everyone has different preferences. If I take a bite and it lacks flavor it’s probably because it lacks salt.

Finish with a sprinkle of Parmigiano and enjoy. Buon appetito!

CHICKEN INVOLTINI STUFFED WITH MORTADELLA, GRANA PADANO & SAGE

What’s one to do when things shut down due to the Coronavirus? Try a new recipe! Last week will be remembered in Milanese history as the week the Coronavirus outbreak shut down the city and most of Northern Italy. It was a tense week as most folks stayed indoors, watching the news and trying to wrap our heads around what was happening. The week unfolded like a Sci-fi movie plot: no one in the streets, people stockpiling supplies, a rising death toll, and unscrupulous people taking advantage of others. So with more time on my hands and a desire to escape the constant barrage of bad news, I headed to the kitchen.

I enjoy exploring the world of the cucina Italiana. At times I feel like I’ll never reach its depths. There are so many tasty ingredients and delicious recipes to try. Circumstances being what there were though, I decided to be frugal and use what I had in the fridge and freezer: chicken, mortadella and Grana Padano cheese. Truth be told, list of ingredients didn’t sound too appetizing but nonetheless, I headed over to Giallo Zafferano and looked for something that might work, and work it did!

You can find the recipe in Italian here. The only modification I made was the omission of the Herbes de Provence (erbe aromaticche). I just didn’t have that ingredient on hand. Note: in the photos you’ll notice that I doubled the recipe.

INVOLTINI STUFFED WITH MORTADELLA, SAGE & GRANA PADANO

Prep time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: 15 minutes, Servings:4

4 chicken breast (thin cut or pounded)
100 g (1/2 cup) good quality Mortadella (about four slices)
2 tablespoons of Grana Padano DOP (grated)
3 sage leaves (diced)
Pepper to taste
1 pinch of Herbes de Provence (optional)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
flour

Good quality ingredients are always important. Can you see the pistacchio pieces in the Mortadella?

Grate cheese, dice mortadella and sage and mix in bowl to create filling. Use your hands to get ingredients to adhere a bit. At first I thought the mixture looked a little dry but once it cooks the Mortadella actually melts with the cheese and creates a smooth and tasty filling.

If you’re grocery store does not offer thin cut chicken breast, pound your chicken breasts into thin pieces, salt and pepper to taste. Dredge each piece in flour.

Spoon about a tablespoon or so of the filling onto each piece of chicken and roll up tightly and secure with toothpicks.

Heat your saute pan on a medium flame. Once your pan is heated, melt butter and add oil then add your involtini. Let your involtini sit tight until the bottoms are browned. Once the bottoms are nice and golden, brown on all sides (approx 8-10 total). Cover and let sit on a very low flame for another 4 minutes.

Here’s the finished product! Golden on the outside with a creamy filling on the inside. I added a little Italian parsley for color and served it with lemon risotto, a green salad and crisp white wine. Buon appetito!