During the first years of the university I used to frequent a pub in Siena, where Saturday after Saturday I started to feel welcome and at home. The tables bore carved in the wood the marks of the endless chats with my friend Laura, conspiratorial words whispered in a low voice in front of a bowl of chips with ketchup, mayonnaise and spicy tomato sauce. That’s where I drank my first beer, at the ripe age of 22 years old… you know, I’m a soft drink girl!
Every time we indulged in the entranced reading of the menu as if it were a Michelin starred restaurant, evaluating with interest pairings and news: tacos, flat bread with Nutella, bruschetta, wraps… The strong point of the pub were the panini, though, hot and cold, 18 for each category. When I was unsure about what to order, I went on with my favourite one: a hot 16 and a lager beer, a small one or I won’t be able to drink it all!
The 16 was the panino I used to choose when I wanted to be reassured, when I could not lose myself in the contemplation of the menu because I was telling Laura word-for-word the developments of one of the many unrequited loves, which needed to be analysed in great detail from every point of view.
The 16 was the panino with artichoke sauce, smoked cheese and cured ham: it’s a combination that worked so well with the lager beer that I turned all the ingredients into a winter risotto, which still has the taste of those long Saturday nights of chats and great expectations.
- 25 g of unsalted butter
- 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
- 1 clove of garlic
- 5 artichoke hearts, cut into thin strips
- 250 g Carnaroli rice
- 1 glass of lager beer
- light vegetable broth, at least 1 liter
- 50 g of smoked goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano (aged 30 months)
- sea salt
- 5 slices of cured ham
- Keep the vegetable broth simmering gently over low heat.
- Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat, then add the thinly sliced onion and a crushed clove of garlic.
- Sauté the onion for 5 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until it becomes transparent, then remove the clove of garlic that has already infused the butter with its flavour and add the artichokes. Cook them over medium heat for 5 minutes.
- When the artichokes begin to soften, pour the rice into the pot and lightly toast it, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
- When the rice grains become pearly white and you begin to feel like a soft crackling sound coming from the pot, pour in a glass of beer and keep on stirring with the wooden spoon.
- Once the beer has evaporated completely, add a ladle of simmering broth; stir in the next before all the liquid is absorbed and keep on adding the broth and stirring until the rice barely reaches the al dente stage - you'd need approximately 25 minutes, but it will depend on the rice you chose.
- Stirring the risotto frequently with energy and a wooden spoon will help to release the rice starch and it will make the risotto creamy without adding additional fat.
- When the rice is al dente, crumble the goat cheese over the risotto and stir in two tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. Season with salt to taste.
- Just before serving the risotto cut the cured ham into thin slices and use it to decorate each dish.
What made this risotto so special?
# spalla cruda, that is cured pork meat from the shoulder of the animal instead of the leg, from which you make ham, a traditional Tuscan product, tasty, perfect accompaniment for our Tuscan bread without salt, with an aromatic and tasty fat that goes well with the savoury and dry meat.
# organic smoked goat cheese, brought here in Tuscany by Zita, a much appreciated gift from Hungary.