Risotto isn't something I make very much. Yes, it's pretty straightforward to make and, on some level, the amount of stirring involved makes the process quite relaxing I suppose. However, I have small children and at the end of the long day if I have to choose between standing at the hob for 30 minutes attending to a saucepan or leaving something to it's own devices while I slump into a chair then I'm afraid the second option is going to win. Having said that, if I'm feeling in the right frame of mind I will dig out the arborio and get stirring. And this recipe in particular really makes the effort worthwhile. The salty pancetta and creamy mascarpone really lift it to another level and turn it into something special.
Roasted Pepper, Pancetta and Mascarpone Risotto
(adapted from a recipe by Valentina Harris in Good Food Magazine)
2 red or yellow peppers (if you're in a rush use sliced roasted peppers from a jar and start the recipe from step 3
50g/2 oz unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
175g/6 oz risotto rice
1 litre/1 1/2 pints vegetable or chicken stock, kept just below boiling point in a pan
50g/2 oz diced pancetta
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp finely chopped flatleaf parsley
3 tbsp mascarpone
50g/2 oz freshly grated parmesan
1 tbsp snipped chives for garnishing
1) Preheat the grill to high, then grill the fresh peppers whole for 10-15 minutes, turning them frequently, until the skins are blackened all over. While they are still warm, put them in a heatproof bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes until cool enough to handle.
2) Peel the skin from the peppers - their flesh will be quite brown in patches. Cut them in half, remove and discard all the seeds and membranes, then cut the peppers into thin strips and set aside.
3) Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, then fry the onion very gently for about 10 minutes until soft and transparent. Add the garlic and three quarters of the peppers. Stir together gently over a low heat for about 3 minutes, then add the rice all in one go. Stir until the grains are coated and toasted all over, about 5 minutes. The add the first ladleful of hot stock and stir it in. Cook slowly adding stock until the grains are plump and swollen.
4) Meanwhile, in a separate pan, fry the pancetta with the olive oil until it is brown and crisp. When the rice is cooked to the right degree (in other words neither chalky nor mushy, but just chewy), take it off the heat and stir in seasoning to taste, plus the remaining ingredients. Cover and leave to stand for about 3 minutes before spooning onto serving plates. Sprinkle with the chopped chives and offer extra parmesan at the table.