Skip to main content

Fennel Risotto

Tara Fisher

A well-made risotto is something anyone can achieve despite the fact it's often seen as exciting restaurant food these days. This fantastic northern Italian starchy rice makes the most silky, elegant dishes and has always been embraced by thrifty Italians. Oozy, creamy, comforting and delicious at any time of year, risotto is also an incredible blank canvas that allows you to make the most of whatever fresh produce happens to be in season. Ripe tomatoes and basil, tender chunks of butternut squash, grilled wild mushrooms, garlicky shellfish, delicate spring peas, broad beans and fresh mint… I could go on.

This week, I've gone with lovely wedges of fennel, cooked slowly and gently with a little chili until beautifully soft, sweet and caramelized. Stirred through oozy risotto and served with toasted pine nuts and delicate fennel fronds sprinkled on top, it's a corker of a dish. I've also used vodka instead of traditional white wine for a fragrant freshness that gives it something a little different.

Risotto is often seen as an event in cooking terms, but it's damn simple and can take as little as 20 minutes from start to finish. While it's slowly simmering you only need to give it a quick stir every couple of minutes, meaning that you can get on with other small jobs at the same time. Keep any leftovers in the fridge to transform into cheesy arancini or fish cakes or to toss through more roasted vegetables for a warm rice salad.

Servings: Serves 4.

Ingredients

1.4 litres (6 cups) organic chicken stock

2 bulbs of fennel, with fronds

2 knobs butter

Extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried chili flakes

1 large onion

2 cloves garlic

4 stalks celery

450 grams (1 pound) Arborio rice

90 mL (1/3 cup) vodka

50 grams (1/3 cup) Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 lemon, zest and juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

30 grams (about 1/4 cup) pine nuts

1 pinch of fennel seeds

Method

Pour the stock into a pan over a low heat and leave it to simmer away until you need it. Cut each fennel bulb into eight wedges, reserving the fronds in a cup of cold water for later.

Heat 1 knob of butter and a splash of olive oil in a medium non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Add the chili flakes, fennel wedges and 8 tablespoons of the hot stock.

Place a damp piece of parchment paper snugly on top, cover with a lid, and cook for about 40 minutes, or until the fennel is soft, sweet and slightly caramelized.

Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the onion and garlic, then trim and finely chop the celery. Place in a high-sided pan over medium-low heat, along with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook for 15 minutes, or until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the rice for a couple of minutes, then turn the heat up to medium-high. Pour in the vodka and let it cook away completely. Stir in the remaining stock, a ladleful at a time, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding the next.

Let it cook for about 15 minutes, or until the rice is done but still holds its shape, stirring regularly.

Add a final splash of stock to loosen the consistency, then stir in the caramelized fennel mixture.

Remove from heat and add the second knob of butter. Add the grated Parmesan and lemon zest, and squeeze in the juice. Season with salt and pepper, cover and leave to sit for 2 minutes, then stir well.

Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan, then crush in a pestle and mortar.

Finish the risotto with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, then serve straightaway with a scattering of pine nuts, fennel seeds and fennel fronds.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies