© David Loftus
fennel risotto with ricotta and dried chilli (risotto ai finocchi con ricotta e peperoncino)
To me, fennel is a really tasty, classy, and underused vegetable. It works really well with the ricotta in this recipe and has a fantastic sweetness. Please don’t buy the crappy ricotta that a lot of the supermarkets have – make sure it’s light and crumbly and, if you’re out of luck, a fresh goat’s cheese is pretty damn good too.
Put your fennel seeds into a pestle and mortar and bash up to a powder. Get a wide, hot saucepan, add a couple of splashes of olive oil, and fry the garlic until softened, then add the bashed fennel seeds and sliced fennel. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and turn down to a medium-low heat. Place a lid on the pan and cook nice and slowly for around 20 minutes, until the fennel’s soft and sweet.
Start the risotto bianco as usual and continue through the recipe until the rice is half-cooked. Halfway through Stage 3, stir in the sautéd fennel, then keep cooking the risotto until the rice is perfectly cooked.
Bash up the dried chilies in the pestle and mortar until you have a fine powder. At Stage 4, when you add the butter and Parmesan, add the crumbled ricotta and lemon zest. Check the seasoning carefully and balance the flavor with as much lemon juice as you feel it needs to work with the fennel. Divide between your plates, sprinkle your fennel tops over the risotto, and dust with the ground chilli. Grate over some fresh Parmesan at the table.
• 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
• extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 2 bulbs of fennel, finely sliced, herby
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 risotto bianco
• 2 small dried chilies
• 4 tablespoons good crumbly ricotta
zest and juice of 1 lemon
• Parmesan cheese, for grating