Fruit and meat combinations are nothing new and this dish of risotto bianco, cherry sauce, and lardo (cured pork fatback) is perfect for introducing guests to unique italian flavors. I say “unique” because for a first-timer, lardo can be intimidating with its pale-colored fat. The cherry sauce is made from the dark, sweet cherries that come into season in June, and I’ve added a hint of rosemary for a sweet-savory result. We normally use 200 grams of rice when cooking risotto for ourselves, but the portions here are deliberately scaled down so that it can be served as part of an elegant multi-course menu.
Making risotto typically means adding some butter at the end, but the butter in this recipe is for cooking the shallot and rice. The risotto obtains richness from the lardo when it melts luxuriously into the hot dish.
Recipe (serves 2)
120 grams carnaroli rice
1 shallot, chopped fine
white wine, at room temp
250 ml well-flavored chicken stock, hot
a nob of butter (or olive oil if you like)
1 tsp. minced rosemary
4 strips of lardo, cut into small segments
Cherry sauce (recipe follows)
Cook the chopped shallot in butter over medium heat until softened but not browned. Add the rice, cook and stir until each grain of rice is coated in butter. Add the rosemary and cook for a few seconds until fragrant. Next, add a generous splash of wine, and stir until wine is absorbed into the rice.
Stir in a ladleful of hot stock and continue to cook, stirring, until the liquid has absorbed into the rice. Repeat the process until all of the stock is incorporated into the risotto. Cooking time is generally 16-18 minutes from the first addition of stock, and the grains should be cooked al dente.
Add a generous spoonful (I use a soup spoon) of cherry sauce to the risotto bianco and swirl it in so that it leaves a marbled effect throughout the rice. Divide risotto between 2 plates and garnish with segments of lardo.
Cherry sauce1 pound sweet cherries, pitted and juices reserved
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary
Combine all ingredients in a small heavy pot and cook over a low flame until thickened and reduced; 30-35 minutes. This is also great as a condiment in italian porchetta (roast pork) sandwiches.