The Samovar

Red wine risotto
April 2, 2007, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Food, Recipes

Haven’t done much food blogging on The Samovar so far, partly because I haven’t really been cooking much. So I present – red wine risotto. Essentially, this is just rice, red wine and onion. It’s very rich and intensely flavoured. This won’t be to everybody’s tastes, but I think all foodies would love it.

The recipe below is a bit fancy with a bit of bacon and port too. There are all sorts of ways you can fiddle with this recipe (see below for some ideas on variations). For example, in the picture below I have put some thinly sliced red pepper in, which was fairly nice but not brilliant.

You could have a smaller quantity of this as a side dish as part of a more involved meal.


Ingredients (for 2 hungry folk)

  • 1 bottle of good quality red wine (“if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it” – doesn’t apply to me because I don’t drink)
  • 1 red onion, very finely chopped – the pieces of onion should be as large as grains of rice
  • 2 rashers of bacon or pancetta, thinly sliced
  • 1 glass of port
  • about 150-200g risotto rice
  • 25g butter
  • 25g parmesan
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Soften the onion slowly in the olive oil. Add the bacon/pancetta and fry until it begins to crisp (but make sure the onion doesn’t burn). In the meantime, pour the whole bottle of red wine into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Add the risotto rice to the bacon and onion and keep it on a high heat for a minute or two, stirring constantly.

Add the port to the pan. It should hiss and bubble with the high temperature, and boil away within a minute or so. Now add two ladles of red wine to the rice, stir and simmer. When cooking a risotto, you occasionally stir the rice (every minute or so), adding hot stock (in this case, just red wine, or just hot water when the wine runs out) when the rice absorbs what is there. Repeat until the moment the grains of rice lose their crunchy, chalky quality – that is until the rice is al dente. Stop adding the hot wine/water and keep cooking and stirring until there is no loose liquid in the pan. When you push the grains of rice aside and look at the bottom of the pan, they should stay where they are and not ooze back into the space. Now season to taste, and stir in the butter and grated parmesan.

Serve with extra parmesan if you want it. If you want something to go with it, you’ll probably want to make it something light like a green salad with vinaigrette.


Mushrooms are quite a nice addition. I occasionally use porcini mushrooms. I pour some almost boiling water over dried porcini and leave them for half an hour or so. Then I strain them through kitchen paper (because they usually have some grit on them). I find that almost all of the flavour ends up in the water they’ve been soaking in, so I actually throw away the mostly tasteless rehydrated mushroom solids and just use the liquid. Some field mushrooms sauted in butter, olive oil and garlic or nutmeg would also be nice.

Various herbs might go well with it. Rosemary or thyme and red wine tends to work well. Parsley, very finely chopped, might also work, especially if you had some mushroom in there too.

I considered using chorizo instead of bacon, but I can’t guarantee that this would be good.



I’d suggest that the best approach would be to keep this authentically simple; don’t faff around with peppers or mushrooms (or even bacon?). And use a decent, mellifluous Barolo. And maybe use shallots instead of onions? You can even keep the shallots whole if they’re small enough. That way you get a nice, mellow alium-sweetness without overwhelming it. And I’d hold the herbs, too. Rosemary or thyme would add bitterness. Save the porcini fo their own rissoto!

Yer Italians are great at these ‘more than the sum of their parts’ dishes. See also spaghetti con olio, aglio e peperoncino’ (fried garlic slices and chilli flakes).

The big trick with rissoto is to keep it ondino. It has to be served on a flat plate and should spread out rather than staying in a pile. When the plate is shuggled (Scots for ‘agitated’), it should ripple.

These little details are essential to Italian food – like, it really matters what pasta you serve with what sauce.

Comment by Edward the Bonobo

Good stuff Ed! I tend to agree on keeping it simple. I make this recipe fairly often, though, so I like to mess around with it occasionally. Haven’t tried shallots instead of onion though – that could be a winner.

Comment by Dan Goodman

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