In 2010 I spent the summer travelling through Europe with my best friend. The original plan had been to travel along the coast of Spain through to the South of France, dip into Tuscany and head across to Hungary and other Eastern European destinations, before swinging back through Central Europe and returning home. Technically speaking we did follow this route, but we didn’t stick to our times. We stayed in Italy for as long as we possibly could without turning our Euro trip into just a trip to Italy.
We started in Genova, the home of pesto, hidden restaurants and narrow streets – it really is an unknown gem. Our next stop was Pisa where we spent our days living the nomad life and the hot evenings drinking cheap cocktails by the river. Next it was Florence where we found the number of tourists quite shocking and the ice cream irresistible, before we grabbed our backpacks and headed straight for what I consider to be Italy’s capital of food, Bologna. Finally we took a train to what would be our final destination in Italy: Venice.
Venice has a charm different to that of Rome or Naples, it’s rather more enchanting and I suppose a little less in your face. Of course there are days where the small canal-side streets are crawling with tourists, all eager to have spaghetti al vongole in San Marco square, but what makes this floating city special is that you can turn a corner and find yourself away from the hustle and bustle and in another world in a snap. It’s pretty easy to get lost, but that’s part of the fun.
We spent longer than expected in Venice, enjoying a life of somewhat luxury by staying with M’s aunt Julia in her beautiful renaissance apartment (SO Vicky Cristina Barcelona, right?). We spent our time divided between discovering the beauty of Venetian cuisine, free-riding traghettos and whiling the days away on the sandy shores of the lido. Flicking through the pages of my newest cookbook reminded me of that trip, which now seems like so long ago. Better yet, it reminded me about the blog I kept while I was travelling; if you’re interested in seeing some horrendous grammatical errors and some amusing anecdotes you can find all of that here.
Now about this risotto, I can’t tell you enough how wonderfully simple and delicious it is, and after trying the method of adding the wine before the rice I will never go back to doing it the other way around. The fat from the prosciutto melts into the creamy risotto, which is in turn spiked with its saltiness and that of parmesan. Truly delectable.
Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto
50g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
100ml dry white wine
150g arborio rice
700ml-1ltr vegetable stock
4 slices prosciutto crudo
Heat 25g butter and olive oil then add the onion and sauté for 7 minutes or so until soft but not browned. Add the white wine and cook down for a few minutes before adding the rice and chopped asparagus (reserve the spears for addition later). Stir until the rice is well-coated and opaque.
Begin to add the stock, add a ladleful at a time and stir often. Don’t let the rice ever dry out before each addition. After about 15 minutes you should have reached the right consistency, but go by your personal taste.
Add the remaining butter and grate in a handful of parmesan, stir until melted and distributed and season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and leave to rest for a couple of minutes.
Serve topped with prosciutto and a sprinkling of parmesan.
Barely adapted from Polpo, A Venetian Cookbook (of sorts)