May 12, 2013

Champagne Risotto

Pasta is always my go-to dinner the night before a long run.  Because I am training for some summer runs, I'll be carb loading with pasta more!

So, what's the deal with carb loading?  When you eat pasta, most of the carbs are store as glycogen in muscles and liver.  Glycogen is easiest form of energy for the body to access.  When you run out of glycogen during a long run, you hit a wall.  The body has to slow down because it needs to convert fat into energy.  Carb loading doesn't make you run faster, but it allows you to run your best.  I feel and run better if I carbed it up before the run.

When rummaging my pantry for pasta for a "night before long run dinner," I came across two boxes of Arborio rice way in the back and decided it was time to make Risotto.  Champagne risotto just sounded good.  Can you really go wrong with a dish that has champagne in it?

Rumor has it that Risotto originated in Northern Italy back in 1574.  The Gothic cathedral Duomo di Milano was being built, and an apprentice was staining the glass windows.  He added saffron to the paint to obtain a richer color.  As a result, he was teased.  Enough was enough, and he added saffron to the rice as a revenge in hope that saffron would ruin the rice.  Well, everyone loved the addition to their rice, and it spread fast through Italy.

Risotto carries a connotation of being a sophisticated, fancy pants kind of dish. It requires more labor than your standard pasta dish, but it really makes for a special dish.

Risotto is a type of Italian rice dish that is cooked in broth to a creamy consistency.  There are three types of rices that work well for Risotto: carnaroli, nano, vialone, and arborio.  These rices can swell up and absorb the liquid without becoming mushy.  I generally use arborio because it is the easiest to find.

As far as the cooking: First, the rice is cooked briefly with onion and butter.  This allows the rice to be coated in a film of fat.  Next, some type of wine is added, and it is absorbed by the rice.  Following the wine absorption, broth or stock is added in small amounts, and your stir constantly.  The stirring loosens the starch molecules from the rice, and that helps to create the smooth creamy texture.  After the broth is absorbed, you generally add some butter and cheese to add more flavor and creaminess.  If you don't want to use champagne, Prosecco would be an excellent substitute.

Enjoy this dish for a date night, special occasion, or just because.

Champagne Risotto
Yields 2 servings

3 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto or pancetta
3 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp. butter
12 asparagus spears, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
1 shallot, finely chopped
3/4 cup Arborio rice
3/4 cup champagne (or another sparkling wine)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.  Lightly grease a baking sheet or a piece of foil.  Place the prosciutto or pancetta slices onto the baking sheet or the foil.  Bake until the slices are almost completely crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes.  The slices will crisp up as they cool.  After the slices are finished crisping, set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil.  Blanch the asparagus in the broth for two minutes, and then remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon.  Set the asparagus aside.  Reduce the heat of the broth to a low simmer.

In another medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add the shallot and cook until the shallot is transparent and tender, about 2-4 minutes.  Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat it in the butter.  Continue toasting the rice, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes more.  Add the champagne and simmer until the champagne has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes.  Drink champagne during this process. :)

After the champagne has nearly evaporated, add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth.  Stir until it is almost completely absorbed by the rice, about 2 minutes.  Continue cooking the broth, adding 1/2 cup at a time, and stir constantly and allow each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next.  This process takes about 20 minutes.  The rice will be tender but still firm from the bite, and the mixture should be creamy.  Once finished, removed from the heat.

Stir in the asparagus, the remaining butter, the Parmesan cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon the risotto into serving dishes and garnish by breaking the prosciutto or pancetta into small pieces over the risotto.

Source: Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis' Everyday Pasta


  1. I knew a little about carb loading but thanks for the explanation. I doubt I'll be needing this information anytime soon but you never know!

    I love risotto and make it often.

  2. Mmm, risotto looks brilliant my friend, so flavoursome :D



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