Added by john_lee | Thu 29 Jan 2009 @ 22:42
Italian restaurants are ten-a-penny in Cardiff, but as with most things in life, quantity does not mean quality, and the majority are the ubiquitous pizza \\\'n\\\' pasta chains, or 1960s throwbacks with chequered tablecloths and watery Bolognese sauce. But for those in the know, one place shines like a jewel amid the giant pepper grinders and Hawaiian pizzas, and it goes by the slightly misleading name of Casanova. Located opposite a multi-story carpark on a side street near the Millenium Stadium, the unpreposessing location hides a pristine little bistro run by Luca and Angelo, two young brothers from Naples. The short lunch menu is a treasure trove of simple, seasonal dishes, such as winter salads, game terrine, marinated sardines, slow cooked stews and rissoti. I went there for lunch a couple of weeks ago, and after greeting me like a long lost friend, the delightful Angelo recommended a risotto of sausage and cinammon. It sounded a strange combination to my British ears, but the risotto tuned out to be an unctious, creamy, morish delight with a spicy tingle from the Italian sausages, and a gentle warmth from the cinammon. In the bright and convivial little dining room with the blinds half closed, the grey and rainy Cardiff street seemed a million miles away. Tonight I recreated Casanova\\\'s risotto, with the help of Jamie\\\'s tried and tested basic recipe, and a Giorgio Locatelli tip of pairing whole and crushed peas with sausage. The lemon zest gives this rich, comforting dish a little lift! Anyway, I hope you\\\'ll give it a go, and if you find yourself in Cardiff, I hope that you\\\'ll pay Angelo and Luca a visit. Say ciao from me!
(serves 4 - 6)
2 tablespoons of ordinary olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 good quality Italian (or British) sausages, skins removed and meat broken up
400g risotto rice (e.g. arborio or carnaroli)
1/2 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon
200ml of dry white wine
1.5 litres of hot chicken stock (good cubes are fine)
200g of defrosted petits pois or peas, half crushed, half left whole
75g of butter
1 large handful of grated parmesan, plus more for finishing
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Zest of one lemon, grated (optional)
Extra virgin oliver oil for drizzling
Put the stock into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. In a large, wide saucepan heat the olive oil and fry the broken up sausage meat until lightly browned. Turn the heat down and gently sweat the onion, celery and garlic for 10-15 minutes until soft but not coloured.
Turn up the heat and add the rice and cinammon to the pan. Stir the rice to coat the grains in the flavoured oil, and keep it moving while it crackles and begins to turn opaque. After a minute or so, add the white wine, and stir again as the alcohol cooks off, and the wine is absorbed by the rice.
When the wine has all but disappeared, turn the heat down to medium-low, and add two ladles of the hot stock, a small pinch of salt and the crushed peas. Continue to stir, and when the stock is almost all absorbed into the rice, add another ladle.
Repeat this process of stirring and adding stock for about fifteen minutes - it\'s important to keep the rice moving to prevent it from sticking, and to release the starch from the grains, which will give you a beautifully creamy risotto.
Stir in the whole peas and taste a couple of drains of rice. They should be almost soft, with just the slightest bite. If they are still chalky, add another ladle of stock, and keep going for another minute or two.
When the rice is cooked and the risotto is oozy and viscous but not runny, turn off the heat and vigorously beat in the butter and parmesan. Place a lid on the pan and let it stand for one minute. Spoon onto suitable dishes, grate over more parmesan, and sprinkle with a lemon zest, if using. Finally, drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.