Risotto is a traditional Italian rice dish that has become a popular menu item in many parts of the world. There is a special technique involved in making this dish, but it is actually very easy: you begin with a simple saute of vegetables and rice and then start adding simmering stock in small amounts until the rice is cooked. The most important thing to remember is to stir continuously during cooking to avoid clumpiness and unevenly cooked rice. The end result is an extremely creamy, rich and comforting dish. This particular recipe features fresh fennel and fontina cheese. The dish is delicately garnished with a sprinkling of lacy fennel greens and toasted pine nuts.
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1/4 cup pine nuts
5 cups vegetable stock
2 fennel bulbs, with leafy greens still attached
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
1-1/2 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
4 ounces fontina cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cooking Instructions

Heat a small, dry pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toast them until they are golden brown and fragrant (this should take just a few minutes). Set aside.

Place the vegetable stock in a medium pot. Bring to a simmer, cover and keep simmering while you prepare the risotto.

Remove the leafy greens from the top of the fennel and set them aside. Peel the outside of the fennel bulb with a vegetable peeler, cut off the bottoms, and then dice it. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion and the fennel and cook for about 10 minutes until the fennel has become slightly tender and the onion is translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat evenly with the oil. Add the white wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is almost completely absorbed. Using a measuring cup, measure out approximately 1/2 cup of the simmering stock and add it to the rice. As with the wine before, stir constantly while the rice is absorbing the stock. When the stock is nearly absorbed, measure out another 1/2 cup of stock, add it to the rice, and repeat the steps as before. Continue this process until all of the stock has been used or until the rice is cooked through.

Cut the fontina cheese into cubes and add them, along with the grated parmesan cheese, to the risotto. Stir until the cheese has fully melted. Chop the reserved fennel greens coarsely and stir about half of them into the risotto. Serve the risotto garnished with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and the remaining fennel greens.

Makes 4 servings



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Be sure to stir the rice constantly during cooking to keep it from cooking unevenly or clumping together. Also, serve the risotto immediately once it is done. If it sits in the pot too long, it tends to become clumpy or mushy.

If you are concerned about the fat content in this dish, simply leave out the fontina cheese. It will be just as good using only the parmesan and will be much lower in fat. I make it this way quite often when I want a lighter dish.

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