I had three long leeks stuffed into the fridge, waving their green ends every time the door was opened. Potato and leek soup, I thought, to counterbalance the maltempo (bad weather) expected in Rome over the weekend. Predictions were dire. But Saturday was sunny, the laundry backlog from December was finally cleared, and even Sunday was not bad. We went to the Bar dei Cesaroni, just up the hill, and had coffee, sitting in the pizza next to their grey parrot who’ll say”Ciao!” if in the right mood. A soap opera is based there, so you get grizzled locals there, mixed with Italians posing in front of the bar. Very good spot for a drink or a Sunday morming cappuccino.
The coffee is good, and the bar is also a shrine to Roma. And the leeks? Well, one ended up in this risotto last night.
Potato and leek risotto
50 grammes chopped guanciale (optional)
t tbs parsley
300 grammes risotto rice (I like Carnaroli)
1.5 litres boiling stock (I use vegetable stock cubes)
60 grammes grated Parmesan
Fry off your guanciale slightly, if you are using it. (If skipping guanciale, heat 1 tsp of olive oil in pot before adding leek.) Wash and chop your leek, and dice the potatoes. Add these to the pot. No need to peel them if they are thin skinned. After a couple minutes, add the risotto rice, and stir so it absorbs some flavour from the guanciale fat and leek (the potato impact is probably minimal tastewise at this stage.)
In the interim, you’ll have pot number two ready with slightly boiling stock. This you ladle in, little by little, only adding a new ladle of hot broth when the previous broth has been almost absorbed. Keep stirring, so the rice releases starch and the risotto becomes creamier. It will keep absorbing liquid after it stops cooking, but it is helpful to taste the rice and feel it going from slightly hard to a bit al dente, to know when enough is enough. You might not need all the broth, or you might need a splash more water (a little white wine is always nice in risotto as well.) When it looks almost ready, take it off the heat and stir in the grated cheese.
Making risotto is really not hard, and you can add what you like. Over the holidays we had some lovely risotto in Varese: taleggio and orange peel, and saffron and culatello. This was less exotic, but good winter food. This is 4-6 portions, as this is great as leftovers the next day. Risotto is great for making rice fritters as well.
We are having neighbours over for dinner this week, and I am debating what to cook. They are Italian, which means we will serve something foreign. Cooking anything Italian would be rather intimidating when people are so knowledgable and specific on how things should be done. I am thinking Norwegian salmon loin, with red rice and leek. Maybe not with miso this time, hmmmmm….. And sticky toffee pudding was the plan for dessert, but one guest is diabetic so a pavlova might be safer, with just fruit for him. Or a nice orange salad for everyone? Suggestions appreciated!