Enjoy all the Mediterranean flavor with this Risotto alla Sarda

Even though Italian cuisine is mostly known for pasta, risotto is widely consumed as well, making it another staple dish of this Mediterranean country. Do you know the history of rice in Italy? Keep reading to find out its origins in this country and a delicious recipe to honor this noble grain.


Some background history

Food historians believe that rice was introduced to Europe by India. But at first, it was not used as an ingredient to cook, but as a thickening agent in the medical field. In the time of the Romans, rice pudding made with almond or cow milk was also consumed to heal upset stomachs.

During the Middle Ages, the Duke of Milan promoted the cultivation of rice because of its rapid growth. For example, in the Po Valley it became very popular and a staple ingredient quite quickly.

However, things were not easy for rice cultivation in Italy. In fact, many problems arose: during this time, cities were hit by the plague and famine, and rice was seen as the answer needed to meet the food shortage. As a consequence, its cultivation spread across the country but because of the stagnant water used in rice fields at the beginning, the Anopheles mosquito proliferated and malarial disease spread to the workers of rice fields… entire fields were destroyed as a consequence. If you thought that things could not go worse for rice, fungi also affected the plants and many had to be removed.

Fortunately, this was the end of rice’s hard time because the solution found was to cultivate Asian plants, which were more resistant and spread all over the country.

Sardinian Risotto

In the 16th Century, examples of rice like we know it today could be found: risotto alla Milanese or risotto with saffron can be traced back to these times. But it was not until the 19th Century that the risotto truly spread to the rest of Italy. Now, many variants of this dish can be found throughout the country, risotto is now an icon in Italian cuisine. Commune, superfino, fino and semifino are ways in which risotto rice can be divided into. Rice Arborio is a superfino variety that is one of the most commonly used.

In the Tyrrhenian sea, some 200 mi West of Rome lies the island of Sardinia. Its cuisine includes grains, vegetables, dairy products and seafood. Sardinian Risotto is particularly interesting because it is different from the northern Italian risotto we are all familiar with.

This recipe has a profound Spanish influence because the coasts of this island were constantly invaded by the Spaniards. As a consequence, this risotto is similar to Spanish paella. Risotto alla Sarda is quite easy to make; you’ll be able to combine two cultures into one delicious dish and bring all the Mediterranean flavors to your table.

Ingredients

  • 1¾ Cups Arborio rice.
  • 1 teaspoon saffron powder.
  • 1½ Cups vegetable stock.
  • 1 Onion.
  • ½ Cup butter.
  • ¾ cup white wine.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese to taste.

Directions

  1. In order to make this dish, heat your cast-iron saucepan over low heat and melt ½ cup of butter.
  2. Thinly slice an onion and cook it for about ten minutes in the butter until it’s soft and golden brown. Remove the onion and set it aside.
  3. In that same saucepan, cook the Arborio rice until translucent, this should take you about five to seven minutes. Stir often to avoid the rice from sticking.
  4. Pour 1½ cup of vegetable broth (you may add any broth of your choice). Stir until rice is fluffy and the broth has been absorbed.
  5. Now it’s time to pour the white wine and let it simmer until the alcohol has entirely evaporated (about 10 minutes). Stir in the saffron powder and add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Once the rice is fully cooked, take the saucepan away from the heat. Let the risotto sit for 5 to 8 minutes, covered. During this time, the risotto should reach the desired creamy, silky-smooth and delicious consistency.

Now it’s time to serve this Risotto Alla Sarda to your guests (or to yourself!). To further impress, add some grated parmesan cheese on top of each plate, and watch it melt slowly as you bring the dish to the table… Enjoy!

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