"Okay, well right off the bat you don't want an Amarone. That'll set you back $70 on the low end and if you want to stay on budget we should find one wine for both dishes." The wine guy said this without looking at me as he searched through the racks of Italian labels in what seemed to be a futile attempt to help me. My wine knowledge isn't what one might even call mediocre, I have more know how in how to install a light fixture than knowing a rosey wine from a rosey nose. Thus, the task of meeting my seemingly impossible needs fell to him.
I was hell bent on making two dishes from my Pasta Sfoglia book, one being a gnocchi dish using the sweet potato gnocchi I made last weekend and the other being a risotto. Both dishes required prunes and amaretti, a dry Italian almond cookie. I figured this would be a great chance to try two different dishes.
However, each one also asked for a different, slightly expensive wine, one that asked for Amarone and the other a Marsala. After a bit of searching my wine guy was able to find something that kind of balanced the two though from what I understand I was basically asking for, "apples and oranges in one bottle."
With wine in hand I began my risotto experiment. I had never made risotto before and assumed it was just like making rice pudding. Furthermore, I had only ever tried onceone my life so I had no idea what a finished risotto really looked like. Luckily, the cookbook had pretty clear directions so as I sat and stirred and shook and mixed while I listened to Anthony Hopkins play the role of Titus on my crappy old television. Shakespeare and the smell of risotto cooking; I can't endorse this combo enough.
Soon it was time to serve...
"You'll have to pardon me if the risotto is like glue. Eat it anyways and make me happy," I slid the bowls of risotto over to my guests. The risotto was striking in its hues of purple; lavender shaded rice with pitch-burgundy sauce which offset the tan crumbles of amartetti.
All my testers then looked at the food in front of them. Purple food - strikingly purple food - was not quite common for either of them. They lifted their forks, took a bite, mulled it over a bit, and then smiled and dove in for more. They weren't even faking. Go me.
The risotto was delicious, especially the sauce. (My God, the sauce!) When we had the leftover risotto again for dinner I made another batch of it and loosely swirled it in with the rice and crumbled more cookies over the top. My guests and I were in agreement that this was a better result though whether it was due to our collective sweet tooth or the fact that my risotto skills are negligible is undetermined (probably a little column A and a little column B).
The gnocchi dish was equally tasty as differing layers of sweet flavors really helped establish a choral counterpoint to the still savory gnocchi. However, it is my opinion that sweet potato gnocchi will taste perfect no matter what you do to them.
Overall, between all the gnocchi and risotto I'm totally digging the prune-amaretti combo and this cookbook (and I have yet to even try the pasta dishes). In fact I'm enjoying it so much that I'm giving away a copy of Pasta Sfoglia to one lucky reader. Even better, author Ron Suhanosky will personally be signing the copy for the winner! A big thanks to Ron, John Wiley & Sons publications, and a super big thanks to Megan Evans for helping me organize this little giveaway for you guys!
To enter just leave a comment about your favorite kind of pasta on this post before Friday the 23rd. On Friday, I'll announce the winner so be sure to check in and see if you've won. Please enter only once. All contestants must be in the continental United States. NOTE: This contest is closed.
Risotto with Red Wine, Prunes, and Amaretti
Adapted from Pasta Sfoglia
2 tablespoons of oil (olive, safflower, or grape seed)
1 cup of coarsely chopped onions
2 cups of carnaroli rice
1 1/2 cups of red wine
6 cups of water
1 teaspoon of salt
5 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan
2 cups chopped prunes
1/2 cup of crushed amaretti cookies
1. Add the oil and onions to a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
2. Add the rice and toast for 1-2 minutes, stirring every few seconds to avoid sticking and burning. Add 1/2 cup of the wine and cook until evaporated.
3. Begin to add the water, 2 cups at a time stirring often in order to release the starch. Continue to shake pan. When a wooden spoon dragged through the rice reveals a pathway add the next 2 cups. Add salt and pepper.
4. During the addition of the remaining 2 cups of water add 3 tablespoons of the butter and the Parmesan.
5. Begin the topping: Add the prunes, remaining wine, and remaining butter and toss into a skillet over high heat. Reduce to a syrup. About 8-10 minutes (6 on my freakish electric coil).
6. Place risotto in a bowl and top with the prune wine mixture. Garnish with amaretti cookies. Serve.
Note: On serving I highly suggest loosely mixing it all together. Way better in my opinion.