I like to think of this dish as a perfect union between Italy and Spain—a classic dish from one country, spiced up with flavors from the other. I’ve been having a bit of a love affair recently with pipérade—a smoky red pepper sauce from Basque country, which has become condiment-like in my repertoire, appearing in anything and everything on my plate. I made a vat of it and used half for my breakfast Pizzas with Crispy Prosciutto, and the other for this risotto. This particular combination was such a success, I’ve come back to it again and again. The hot smoked paprika (known as pimentón in Spain) in the red pepper mixture adds an unexpected twist to rich, creamy risotto. The dish is finished with freshly grated Parmesan and torn basil to offset the heat, and the end result is thoroughly satisfying, if more intense than your everyday veggie risotto.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Smoky Red Pepper Risotto with Pimentón
Makes 4-6 servings
For the red pepper mixture:
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (or pimentón)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
For the Risotto:
1 quart chicken stock, warmed in the microwave
½ onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 tsp salt
1 cup white wine
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
10-15 basil leaves, roughly torn
Place your stock in a large measuring cup or bowl. Heat in the microwave for 3-4 minutes until warm.
In a large deep skillet or medium Dutch oven, sauté the onion in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Once translucent, about 3-5 minutes, add garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Add the rice and stir so it becomes coated in the oil and onion mixture. Cook for about 3 minutes to get the rice lightly toasted. Add the salt and the wine and cook, stirring, until nearly evaporated, about 1 minute. Return the heat to medium, and add ½ cup of stock, stirring occasionally until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the next ½ cup of stock and repeat the process.
While the risotto is working slowly, you can turn the majority of your attention to the red pepper mixture. In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion and red pepper in enough olive oil to coat the pan. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 6 minutes. Add the paprika, cayenne, garlic, and cook for another 2 minutes, until the mixture is very fragrant. Season generously with salt, and carefully stir in the tomatoes. Simmer until some of the juices have evaporated, the sauce has thickened, and the vegetables are very tender, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and taste again for seasoning.
Once the stock is almost gone, and the risotto has only a slight bite to it, add the red pepper mixture and any additional liquid if necessary. Stir to combine. When the risotto is at your desired texture and consistency, stir in the basil and ¾ of the parmesan, and take the pan off the heat.
Taste for seasoning, and garnish with the additional parmesan and some torn basil leaves.