10 November 2011

AUNTIE PASTA: The Pilot's Rice

SARONNO, Italy – Today’s recipe, Riso alla Pilota, is a traditional dish from Manuta, a lovely town not too far from Verona. Mantua is a rice growing area and this dish was named after the workers who husked the rice – the pilots - who turned the “pile”,  a large stone mortar that was used to separate  the rice from the husk.  
 Center of Mantua
Unlike traditional risotto dishes, riso alla pilota is first cooked in a covered pot and then allowed to rest off the heat. The result is a creamy risotto with nice firm grains, but not in the least bit dry. The cooking method is a little unusual, but interesting and worth a try.

80 grams of butter
100 grams of freshly grated Grana Padano (or Parmegiano)
350 grams of rice Semifino Vialone Nano (or Aborio)
300 grams of Italian sausage (not hot and spicy)

Place 600 ml of water in a heavy bottom pot and bring it to a boil.

As soon as the water starts to boil, salt it lightly and pour the rice in the center of the pot, (1) so that it falls in the form of a pyramid with about an inch of rice sticking out of the water  t (2) (if the tip does not emerge, remove some of the water with a spoon, or if more than 2 cm are sticking out, add additional water).

When the water returns to a boil, cook the rice for 10-12 minutes without a lid over a medium high flame, shaking the pot occasionally to stir the rice and flatten it. After 10 -12 minutes the rice should have absorbed all the water, remove the pot from the stove and cover the rice with a clean tea towel (the tea towel should touch the rice) (3)
Cover the pot  (4) and let it rest for 10 minutes more, during which time the rice should be completely cooked. 

In the meantime, melt the butter in a pan (5), break up the sausage meat with a fork and add it in the pan (6) and let it cook over a medium flame until it is browned. Stir it occasionally with a wooden spoon, so it doesn’t stick to the pan.

After the rice has rested for 10 minutes, break it up with a fork (7) and add the browned sausage (8), add half of the freshly grated Grana (9) and mix. Sprinkle with the remaining Grana and serve immediately.

Tip: The best rice to use for this recipe is semifino Vialone Nano, which grows in the Mantua area. The medium size grains hold their shape during the long cooking process.  The pork sausage should be made from the pork shoulder and seasoned with garlic and pepper. If you can’t find garlic seasoned sausage you can add a finely chopped garlic clove to the sausage meat with it is cooking.You could also add a little onion to the sausage, unless you are like my Aunt Florence who positively does not like onions in any way, shape or form but I love her anyway. 
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