Milk Street Italian the Right Way (Ep 303)

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Risotto with Fresh Herbs

Start to finish: 25 minutes | Servings: 4

Medium-grain Italian rice has the ideal starch content for achieving the rich, creamy consistency that is the hallmark of risotto. Arborio rice is the most common choice for risotto in the U.S., but cooks in Milan—and at Milk Street—preferred carnaroli. We found that the grains better retained their structure and resisted overcooking. With careful cooking, however, Arborio will yield delicious results. A quick six-ingredient homemade vegetable broth is the best cooking liquid for this risotto; its fresh, clean flavor won’t compete with the other ingredients. Serve in warmed, shallow bowls to prevent the rice from cooling too quickly. If you want to try Milan’s trademark saffron version, which pairs well with roasted and braised meats, see the following variation.

Don’t cook the rice to the ideal al dente texture before removing the pan from the burner. The grains will continue to cook with residual heat as the cheese and butter are stirred in.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 1/2 cups vegetable broth (see recipe on next page)
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, divided
  • 1 cup carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • ⅓ cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS

In a small saucepan over medium, bring the broth, covered, to a simmer. Reduce to low to keep warm.

In a large saucepan over medium-high, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until translucent at the edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups of the remaining hot broth and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and cook, stirring frequently and briskly, until the grains are almost tender but still quite firm at the core (it will be quite soupy), 8 to 10 minutes; adjust the heat as needed to maintain a vigorous simmer.

Add 1/2 cup broth and cook, stirring frequently and briskly, until the rice is just shy of al dente but still soupy, 3 to 5 minutes. If the rice is thick and dry but the grains are still too firm, add the remaining hot broth in 1/4-cup increments and continue to cook, stirring, until the rice is just shy of al dente.

Off heat, stir in the Parmesan, thyme, scallions, parsley, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, 1 piece at a time. Taste and season with salt, then stir in the vinegar. Serve immediately.


Easy Vegetable-Parmesan Broth

Start to finish: 30 minutes | Servings: Makes 1 quart

INGREDIENTS

  • One 1-ounce chunk of Parmesan rind
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, roughly chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large saucepan over high, combine all ingredients with 5 cups water and bring to a boil. Partially cover, then reduce to medium and cook for 20 minutes, adjusting the heat to maintain a lively simmer.

Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl; discard the solids. You should have about 1 quart of broth.


Spaghetti al Limone

Start to finish: 15 minutes | Servings: 4

This simple dish may have few ingredients, but it boasts bold, bright flavors. Many versions include cream, but we preferred to use a little butter and some of the starchy spaghetti-cooking water; this gave the pasta a saucy consistency and light creaminess that didn’t mute the freshness of the lemon. Feel free to switch out linguine for the spaghetti and adjust the lemon zest and juice to your taste.

Don’t cook the pasta until al dente. Drain it when it’s a minute or two shy of al dente; it will continue to cook in the skillet.

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

INSTRUCTIONS

In a 12-inch skillet over medium, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. Pour in the wine and cook until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until just shy of al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water, then drain and set aside.

Set the skillet with the garlic mixture over medium-high, stir in 1 1/2 cups of the reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer. Add the drained pasta and toss. Cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.

Off heat, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon black pepper, the lemon juice and zest, and the parsley. Taste and season with salt and, if needed, adjust the consistency by adding additional pasta water a few tablespoons at a time. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with grated Parmesan.


Pasta all’Amatriciana

Start to finish: 30 minutes | Servings: 4

Be sure to purchase thinly sliced pancetta and chop it finely to ensure the pieces crisp with cooking. If the sauced pasta thickens before you can serve it, toss in a bit more reserved cooking water to loosen its consistency.

Don’t boil the pasta until al dente. Drain it when it’s a minute or two shy of al dente; it will continue to cook when added to the sauce in the skillet.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped
  • 10 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 14 1/2-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained, juices reserved, tomatoes crushed by hand into small pieces
  • 1-ounce chunk pecorino Romano cheese, plus more finely grated, to serve
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces spaghetti

INSTRUCTIONS

In a 12-inch skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring, until well-browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and set aside.

Return the skillet to medium and add the garlic; cook, stirring, until light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, increase to medium-high and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the drained tomatoes and cook, stirring, until heated, about 2 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the reserved tomato juice, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water and the pecorino chunk to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent the cheese from sticking to the pot. Stir in the pasta and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is just shy of al dente. Remove and discard the pecorino, then drain the pasta in a colander set in a large heat-safe bowl; reserve the cooking water.

Set the skillet over medium-high, stir in 1 1/2 cups of the reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer. Add the drained pasta, tossing with tongs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, 3 to 6 minutes.

Off heat, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the pancetta and 2 teaspoons black pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with grated pecorino on the side.

PHOTO CREDIT: CONNIE MILLER OF CB CREATIVES