Risotto Cacio e Pepe

Massimo Bottura is a three-star Michelin chef with a mission. When a powerful earthquake hit his native Modena, Italy in 2012 and toppled countless wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano which broke and split, he developed this risotto recipe to make use of the shattered blocks of cheese. A lively intellectual and storyteller who creates a vision for each plate, Bottura, 52, was recently in Toronto as a guest of the George Brown College cooking school, which is pioneering an Italian program in Italy.

Bottura demonstrated this risotto in his class at George Brown College. (It is a traditional Roman dish when made with pasta.) Use vialone nano or carnaroli rice.

Ready time: 25 minutes
Servings: 8 as an appetizer

Black Pepper Oil:

1 tbsp black peppercorns

1/4 cup olive oil

Risotto:

3 1/2 cups Parmigiano Reggiano stock

11/2 cups carnaroli rice

11/2 tbsp olive oil

6 tbsp Parmigiano cream

Blend pepper and olive oil on high speed for 5 minutes or until oil is very pungent. Reserve.

Place Parmigiano stock in a pot over low heat and keep warm.

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until it becomes translucent.

Add 1/2 cup of stock, stirring constantly. Once absorbed, add another 1/2 cup and continue stirring. Continue adding stock and letting it absorb until 3 cups of stock have been absorbed, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in parmesan cream and remaining stock. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until rice is al dente, approximately 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove from heat.

Stir in 1 tbsp black pepper oil and let rest in pan for 1 minute. Spoon risotto onto plates and garnish each serving with a drizzle of black pepper oil.

Suggested Wine Pairings:

The first dish begs us to step out of our Italian-white-wine comfort zone, a place inhabited by such generally crisp, light styles as pinot grigio, Soave and verdicchio. Creamy, cheesy risotto such as this calls for more voluptuous body. Or, with a wink and a nod to Chef Bottura’s fine book, let me put it this way: Don’t trust a skinny white wine. Consider such offbeat examples as greco or falanghina from southern Italy or two ample-bodied yet still crisp whites from the north, Masi Masianco or Anselmi San Vincenzo.  – Beppi Crosariol