Meatless Monday: Risotto con Radicchio e Vino Rosso

By: Michelle Buffardi
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Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

There aren't many vegetables I don't like, but among the few I'm averse to is radicchio. Unwelcome leaves floating in a salad get flicked to the side and when I get the inevitable head of radicchio in my CSA share, I head to the swap box to see if I can trade it up. But it turns out that I just don't like raw radicchio. I ordered a pasta dish at a restaurant recently that I did not realize included radicchio (if I'd known, I would have avoided the dish). The radicchio was sauteed with garlic, lemon and hot pepper flakes and with tossed broccoli rabe and homemade pasta. I loved it cooked this way. So I've amended the radicchio clause on the food rules I keep in my head to "I don't eat raw radicchio."

But now that I know I like cooked radicchio, I'm all over it. Radicchio, sometimes called Italian chicory, is known for its bitter flavor, but when you cook the purple leaves, the flavor totally mellows. You can grill radicchio or saute it and serve it with pasta. David Rocco uses radicchio in his creamy risotto recipe with similarly-hued red wine for a rare dish where the color matches the flavor; both are equally lovely.

Wine is a common ingredient in risotto, but white is used most often. It's usually just a small amount, which lends a layer of flavor and acidity to the rice without altering the color. But this risotto calls for 2 1/2 cups, a bold contribution to the color and the flavor. Since the recipe does call for a more-than-modest amount of vino, have an extra bottle on hand for drinking. There's about 3 1/4 cups of wine per bottle, so after you make this risotto, you won't have nearly enough left for sipping through your dinner.

Yield: 4 servings
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium white onion, diced
1 pound Italian rice
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 large head radicchio, chopped
2 1/2 cups red wine
1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmigiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil with the butter until hot over medium heat, and then cook the onions with some salt and pepper, stirring, until soft.

Stir in the rice; it will mix and get coated with the oil and become toasted and translucent.

Start adding your vegetable broth, 1 ladle at a time, stirring so the rice doesn't stick. When that's absorbed, keeping adding more until you are finished with the broth. Stir in the radicchio and cook 1 minute, and then begin ladling in the wine a little at a time until completely absorbed. The risotto will take about 16 to 18 minutes to cook. Remove from the heat, add your Parmigiano and mix well.

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