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Risotto with Fennel and Pancetta

Risotto with Fennel and Pancetta

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  • 5-7 thin slices of pancetta, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


In a large pot, cook the diced pancetta over medium-low heat until crispy (you might even want to border on crunchy so that it retains a nice textures), about 6 minutes. Next, add the sliced fennel and olive oil and cook for about 4 minutes until it starts to soften. Then add the rice, stirring for about 1-2 minutes, coating it with the oil.

There is a misconception about risotto I would like to clear up: It does not need to be stirred constantly. Frequently, and with a watchful eye, yes. That said, add about a third to a half cup of chicken broth to the rice, stirring every so often to make sure the rice isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once most of the liquid has been absorbed, add another portion of chicken broth, and stir. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked (when it's closer to al dente than soft.)

Add in the cheeses and mix until fully incorporated. Season with salt and black pepper as desired (careful with the salt though, there's a decent amount there naturally from the pancetta and cheese). Serve in a bowl or plate and garnish with a light sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Rachel Roddy’s fennel and lemon risotto recipe

A part from a frosty fortnight in January, it has been a good season for fennel. I heard this from Filippo at Testaccio market, while he trimmed the fingers and peacock-like crest of feathery fronds until each bulb resembled a stubby hand. We still have a few more months to enjoy it though: fennel may like the cold, but it continues as days get longer and warmer, a presence on stalls laden with spring artichokes, peas and broad beans in their pods, the first of the strawberries and blushing stone fruit. Italians appreciate fennel’s sweet, herbacious and faintly aniseed nature in salads, or simply served in chunks to be dipped in a hot bath of anchovy dressing. My Sicilian family like it chilled in iced, salted, lemon-scented water for crisp, refreshing punctuation between the main course and the pudding.

Despite his liking for it raw, my partner Vincenzo dislikes cooked fennel, the texture is squishy and “funny” (not in an amusing way), whereas I find it silky and fragrant – I love it baked with fish. But he makes an exception for risotto a dish in which the fennel almost melts into the rice, giving it an aromatic backbone that is cheered by butter and parmesan cheese, and lifted by lemon. It is a dish in which ingredients come together, but taste as they are.

By the time we find fennel in the shops or at the market, it has often had an even more serious crewcut than Filippo gives it. We may then trim it further, removing the thicker outer layer to get at the tender bulb. Any trimmings can be used to make a vegetable stock for today’s risotto, making this a neatly resourceful dish, the sort my wasteful self is trying to use more. My stock last week, which turned out well, used all the fennel trimmings, a big onion, some leek trimmings from the day before, celery with leaves, a bay leaf, 2 garlic cloves, a few peppercorns, carrots, pea pods, parsley and basil stems. To be too prescriptive misses the point – use what you have. You want more or less 1.5 litres of stock for this, so cover the vegetables with 2 litres of water, as it will reduce as it simmers. Once strained, leave the warm stock at the back of the stove, to be added little by little. Alternatively, you could also use light chicken stock, if you wish.

I began to enjoy making risotto as much as I enjoy eating it when I understood better the various stages involved – knew what should be happening under my wooden spoon. First, you put the radio on and pour yourself a glass of wine, then you lay the foundations by softening the onion and fennel in butter – a pinch of salt helps this process. Next, you add the rice and stir. For a moment the pan seems a little dry – almost toasty. This is exactly what you want: in fact, this brief stage – when the grains are sealed and heated through – is called tostatura. Now you add the wine for the rice, which should whoosh as it hits the pan. Once the wine has been absorbed, you add the warm stock, gradually, the next ladleful added only when the previous one has been absorbed, all the while stirring firmly and steadily. It takes about 16 minutes for the rice to absorb all the stock – to plump up and almost triple in volume to a soft, rippling mass. Taste a grain or two: it should be tender, but with a slight bite. Lastly, add the remaining cold butter, grated cheese and lemon and leave it covered for a minute to rest. The final stage in this process is the mantecatura, when you beat the now melted butter and cheese into the rice – an amalgamation that transforms the risotto into a creamy, glossy whole.

As with so many things, the key to making risotto in this way – there are other ways – is practice the easy everyday sort, as opposed to something dutiful like banging out musical scales. It is repetition that allows us to see and understand the changes that happen over the course of 20 minutes as seven ingredients fuse and transform. In the spirit of home cooking, it will always be slighty different every time, but hopefully always fragrant, satisfying and good.

Fennel Risotto with Goat Cheese Recipe

I just can’t help wanting to make creamy comfort foods this time of year. So when I picked up Jaime’s Italy and saw all the neat risotto ideas I was sold. I made this with a few of my girlfriends as part of my birthday celebration and it was great fun. I had lots of company while I stirred and we managed to time dinner perfectly – I still have trouble timing foods around risotto. I am thinking this means I should make it more, you know for practice. The original recipe calls for fennel seeds and ricotta rather then goat cheese but the goat cheese was really good, it got all melty and creamy.

This is one of the first times I have ever cooked with fennel and certainly the first time I have made a fennel focused dish. There are so many vegetables I barely tried until leaving home which fall into this category – yams, brussel sprouts, squash, eggplant, etc. I will definitely do it again, I am thinking maybe a pasta with goat cheese and braised or roasted fennel would be really good? I actually tried to grow fennel this year but it wasn’t in a sunny enough location and it didn’t make it. However I am determined to try again, far more interesting then celery! In fact I bet you didn’t know that florence fennel – the vegetable kind was one of the main ingredients in absinthe!

[print_this] Fennel Risotto with Goat Cheese
(serves 4)
Adapted from Jaime’s Italy

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium fennel bulbs, sliced with herby tops saved
1 tablespoons butter
1 cup onions, chopped
2 small dried chiles, crumbled
1.5 cups arborio rice
1 glass white wine
1 litre chicken stock, approximately
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup freshly grated parmesan
1 lemon, zest and juice
4 tablespoons soft goat cheese

1. In a large skillet add a few glugs of olive oil over medium heat and saute the garlic until soft then add the fennel and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring regularly over medium low heat until fennel is soft – about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile start the risotto. Melt 1T of butter in a heavy casserole pot (I like enameled cast iron) over medium low heat. Meanwhile put the stock in another pot over low heat. Add chiles and onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes – don’t let it brown. Add the rice and stir it all together allowing the rice to absorb the moisture of the butter. Cook, stirring constantly for about a minute, don’t let it stick. Add the wine and continue stirring until absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add stock by the ladle until it has been absorbed stirring constantly. After your second addition of stock has been absorbed add the cooked fennel.

3. Once you risotto is just lightly al dente add the parmesan, remaining butter and lemon zest. Check the seasoning and add the lemon juice, tasting to make sure you don’t add too much. Stir in the herby fennel fronds.

6 large ripe tomatoes
1 bulb of garlic
½ a bunch (15g) fresh thyme
olive oil
1.2 ltr vegetable stock
1 onion
1 bulb of fennel
2 knobs unsalted butter
450g Arborio risotto rice
150ml dry white vermouth
80g Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. With a knife, cut the cores out of the tomatoes, then place cut side down in a snug-fitting baking dish with the whole garlic bulb, and scatter over the thyme sprigs. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil, season with sea salt, and roast for 1 hour, or until starting to burst open (the juices will add game-changing flavour later on).

Bring the stock to a simmer. Peel and finely chop the onion and fennel, reserving any herby tops, then place in a large, high-sided pan on a medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 knob of butter. Cook for 10 minutes, or until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally, then stir in the rice to toast for 2 minutes. Pour in the vermouth and stir until absorbed. Add a ladleful of stock and wait until it’s been fully absorbed before adding another, stirring constantly and adding ladlefuls of stock until the rice is cooked – it will need 16 to 18 minutes. Beat in the remaining knob of butter, finely grate and beat in the Parmesan, then season to perfection and turn the heat off. Cover the pan and leave to relax for 2 minutes so the risotto becomes creamy and oozy.

Divide the risotto between warm plates, place a tomato in the centre with a little sweet garlic and the herby fennel tops, then drizzle over the tasty tomato juices.

Tip: Squeezing the smooth, mild garlic out of its skin after roasting adds a delicious bonus flavour to the risotto.

To make vegetarian: swap Parmesan for vegetarian hard cheese.

ENERGY 507kcal • FAT 15.3g • SAT FAT 6.9g • PROTEIN 13.6g • CARBS 77.7g • SUGARS 7.6g • SALT 0.7g • FIBRE 5.3g

Cook's Notes:

If using a regular pot, use 1 quart vegetable stock. Follow recipe above through step 3. Once the wine has been absorbed, reduce heat to medium and stir in warm stock 1 ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition until it is fully absorbed. The rice will take 18 to 20 minutes to cook fully. Add the saffron halfway through cooking. Once the rice is fully cooked, stir in Parmesan cheese, pancetta, and butter. Remove from heat and let stand 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Cooking risotto in a pressure cooker is ridiculously convenient, but it requires almost perfection in timing and quantities. The stock has to be a tiny bit more than twice the weight of the rice. For instance, if you use 4 ounces of rice, the stock will always be 8 to 9 fluid ounces at most. Also, the cooking time after the first whistle should not exceed 4 minutes sharp, so use a timer. Longer cooking will result in overcooked rice. When you open the cooker, if the rice tastes a bit raw and there's still stock in the cooker, don't worry it will keep cooking during resting time and absorb any remaining stock, which is very important in preparing risotto. Don't skip this step!

Mushroom and Fennel Risotto with Parmesan

Though most risottos are started by sautéing onions, in this recipe you begin by cooking finely diced fennel, which infuses the risotto with its subtle anise flavor. Traditionally risotto is served as a first course, followed by meat or fish, but it also makes an excellent vegetarian main course.

Mushroom and Fennel Risotto with Parmesan


  • 6 cups (48 fl. oz./1.5 l) vegetable broth
  • 4 Tbs. (2 fl. oz./60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and finely diced
  • 1/2 lb. (250 g) assorted wild mushrooms, trimmed and halved or quartered, depending on size
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 oz./315 g) Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) crème fraîche
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) grated Parmesan cheese, plus shaved Parmesan for garnish
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the broth to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and keep the broth warm.

2. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the fennel and sauté until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer the vegetables to a plate. Set aside.

3. Add the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil to the same pan and warm over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grains are coated with the oil and somewhat translucent, about 3 minutes.

4. Add the wine and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) of the hot broth and cook, stirring constantly, until it is almost completely absorbed, about 10 minutes. Continue adding the broth 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) at a time, stirring frequently after each addition and waiting until the broth is almost completely absorbed before adding more.

5. When the rice is creamy and the grains are tender yet still slightly firm to the bite, after about 25 minutes, stir in the crème fraîche until combined. Add the mushroom and fennel mixture to the risotto and stir until warmed through. Stir in the grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in more broth if the risotto is too thick. Transfer to a serving platter or individual bowls and garnish with shaved Parmesan and the parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Recipe Summary

  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (14 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons fennel fronds, plus more for serving

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a simmer keep warm. In an enameled medium cast-iron casserole, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over moderately high heat. Add the onion and fennel, season with salt and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly to coat the rice with butter. Add 1 cup of the warm stock and cook over moderately high heat, stirring constantly, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1 cup at a time and stirring constantly until it is nearly absorbed between additions. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 20 minutes total. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the 1 1/2 cups of cheese and the 2 tablespoons of fennel fronds. Garnish with more fennel fronds and serve immediately, passing grated cheese at the table.

Arancini with Pancetta and Garlic Sauce

Arancini with Pancetta and Garlic Sauce

If you’ve never had arancini, I am glad you are here!

Arancini is a traditional Italian dish consisting of fried rice balls. Made with risotto, sometimes the arancini have peas or mozzarella inside. For this recipe, I included the mozzarella, but omitted the peas.

Crispy on the outside and soft and rich on the inside, arancini is a filling and delicious dish that is best served with tomato sauce.

If you’re stopping by here while searching for recipes, you may not know that the recipes here are all inspired by books! This particular recipe was created after reading The Four Winds.

The Four Winds is Kristin Hannah’s novel about a woman struggling to keep her family farm afloat during the Dust Bowl and her ultimate decision to move to California in hopes of a better future. Reminiscent of the Grapes of Wrath, The Four Winds is an epic tale of survivorship against great odds. If you love reading, check out more about this great book HERE!

This recipe for Arancini combines rich risotto, melty mozzarella, crispy panko, and a delicious garlic and pancetta sauce.

The flavors combine to create a warm and comforting dish that’s absolutely delectable.

The Four Winds Book Club Questions and Food Ideas

Here’s what you’ll need to make Arancini with Garlic and Pancetta Sauce:

A quick list of equipment –

Tips for Arancini with Garlic and Pancetta Sauce:

While some people are nervous about making risotto, I don’t think you should be. If you’ve ever made rice (not the minute kind!), then you should be able to handle it. It just takes a little extra time and attention.

Risotto will be a somewhat soupier version of rice. The important thing is to not overcook it and make it too dry. And, to use the right kind of rice. Arborio is recommended. I used the kind pictured below and available on Amazon.

This recipe is a labor of love. You will have to make the risotto first, chill it, then fry the arancini balls (made with risotto), and make the sauce to serve with the arancini.

If you are looking for a step to cut, I would just use store bought pasta or marinara instead of making from scratch. While I do love this sauce, I realize most people don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. So, for me, that’s the obvious step to go.

First Steps – Making the Risotto Making the Arancini

Citrus Risotto Milanese

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the stock, citrus zests, and saffron over low.

2. In a round-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil, two turns of the pan, over medium-high. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring often, until the fat begins to render, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and garlic. Using a risotto spoon (a round-edged paddle with a hole in the middle) or wooden spoon, cook, stirring often, until the onion softens, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice, thyme, and fennel pollen (if using) season with salt and pepper. Cook until the rice is toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir constantly until absorbed, 3 to 4 minutes. Add a ladle of stock. Cook, stirring constantly, until the stock is almost completely absorbed. Continue adding more stock by the ladleful, stirring constantly until the stock is absorbed between each addition. With each addition of stock, stir vigorously to release the starch from the rice, which will make the risotto creamy. From the time you add the wine, the risotto should take 18 minutes to cook.

3. Stir the butter into the risotto. Add the Parm and the citrus juices and stir until the cheese melts. The risotto should be pourable and very creamy. Serve in shallow bowls.

Tip: This dish is perfect as is, but you could top it with asparagus sautéed with tarragon or sautéed shrimp.

Fennel Risotto with Radicchio

Peel shallot and garlic and chop finely. Heat 30 grams (approximately 1 ounce) butter in a pan and saute shallot and garlic. Add rice and saute until rice is translucent.

Deglaze pan with wine and cook rice, stirring, until wine is fully absorbed. Add broth so that rice is just covered and cook, stirring, until almost all liquid is absorbed. Continue to add broth in this manner and cook until rice is al dente, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Meantime, rinse fennel and cut into thin slices. Rinse radicchio and cut into fine strips. Heat oil in a pan and saute fennel and radicchio. Sprinkle with sugar and let caramelize slightly. Rinse basil leaves, shake dry and coarsely chop.

Add remaining butter, Parmesan, fennel and radicchio mixture and basil to risotto. Season with salt and pepper, arrange on plates and serve.