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Cauliflower risotto (Risotto ai cavalfiori)
Sprinkled with spicy golden pangrattato
“You just have to try this creamy cauliflower risotto with a gorgeous crunchy breadcrumb topping ”
This is an absolutely delicious recipe. It’s quite unusual, and the best thing about it is that it makes a hero of the much-underloved everyday cauliflower. If you’re down the farmers’ market, or at the supermarket, have a look around for a Romanesco cauliflower – it’s a similar size to a normal cauliflower but spiky and green. It also has a delicious flavour. The reason I love this dish is because it takes some all-time classic ingredients and puts them together in a great way. In Britain, we normally eat cauliflower baked with cheese, and in Italy it is baked as a Parmigiana with cream, cheese and anchovies. All these flavours are in this risotto, with the added bonus of really crunchy chilli pangrattato sprinkled on top – it gives an amazing kick.
Whiz the bread in a food processor with the anchovies, the oil from the tin and the chillies. Heat a frying pan with a splash of oil and fry the flavoured breadcrumbs, stirring and tossing constantly until golden brown.
Trim the coarse leaves off the cauliflower and cut out the stalk. Chop the nice inner part of the stalk finely. Heat the stock and add the cauliflower florets to your pan of hot stock. In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and butter, add the onions, garlic, celery, and chopped cauliflower stalk and fry very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.
The rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the vermouth or wine and keep stirring — it will smell fantastic. Any harsh alcohol flavours will evaporate and leave the rice with a tasty essence.
Once the vermouth or wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn't cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and almost massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. By the time the rice is half-cooked, the cauliflower florets should be quite soft, so you can start to add them to the risotto with the stock, crushing them into the rice as you go.
Continue until the rice is cooked and all the cauliflower has been added. Taste the rice — is it cooked? Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Don't forget to check the seasoning carefully. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.
Remove from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan and stir in the parsley. Taste and season. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This is the most important part of making the perfect risotto, as this is when it becomes outrageously creamy and oozy like it should be. Eat it as soon as possible, while the risotto retains its beautiful texture. Sprinkle with the anchovy pangrattato, grate some more Parmesan over the top and serve. So, so good!