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Spring Risotto with Sweet Peas, Basil, Ham and Red Bell Pepper
Spring is definitely in the air in my part of the world. The farmers markets are bursting with colorful vegetables like red and yellow bell peppers, zucchini and mushrooms. I had picked up two beautiful red bell peppers the other day and needed to use them before they lost their crispness. I decided to feature them in a risotto. I guess I sort of look at rice like a blank canvas, so as soon as I had opted for the red, I felt it need to be balanced by something green which is when I settled on sweet green peas. I would have loved to have rounded it out with about a quarter pound of Parma ham (an Italian cured ham) but we didn't have that much. What we did have was about a quarter pound of fresh from the butcher sliced ham, like the kind you put on a sandwich. The end result was a creamy risotto that had my son asking for thirds! Its mild enough to please a child and yet intricate enough for more sophisticated palettes. Its a simple, one dish meal that you can have prepared and on the table in about 40 minutes. If you'd like a nice green salad would be wonderful with this.
Ingredients for Risotto with Peas, Red Bell Peppers, Ham and Basil
- olive oil
- 1 1/2 c. or 375 gr. arborio rice
- 1/2 c. or 125 ml. white wine
- 3-4 c. or 3/4 to 1 liter broth
- 2 med. sweet onions, minced
- 2 large red bell peppers, chopped
- 1 1/2 c. or 375 gr. sweet peas (frozen work just fine)
- 1/3 lb. or 300 gr. good quality ham, chopped
- 3 tbs. butter
- 1/2 c. or 125 gr. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 good bunch fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
Directions for Risotto with Peas, Peppers, Ham & Basil
There are three things to remember when it comes to good risotto: stir, stir, stir.
Pour a decent sized dollop of olive oil into a large heavy bottomed pot and set the burner to approx. 6 or 7. Add the minced onion and saute until translucent then add the rice. Let the rice saute for a minute or two then add white wine. This will boil off rapidly. As soon as it does add about a 1/2 cup of the broth of your choice. I used chicken broth but it would work equally well with vegetable broth. Continue adding the broth until the rice starts to soften up and has about doubled in size. Add the ham. Continue to add the broth about a half cup at a time until the rice is almost done. You can try a "bite" test. If the rice is hard, it needs more time and broth. The rice should be mostly soft but have a slightly hard center when you add the peppers and peas. When you've added the vegetables, add the last of the broth and keep stirring for another few minutes. Try the rice again. It should be soft but have a pleasing resistance in the middle. This is called "al dente," literally, to the tooth, and means the rice is done cooking. Stir in the butter and Parmesan and taste for seasoning like salt and pepper. Serve topped with a generous amount of basil ribbons. Instead of cutting the basil with a knife, I like to use kitchen sheers to snip it into perfect ribbons.