Italian Side Dishes - Risotto and Panzanella

Italian Food Ingredients I must document the side dishes from the latest Italian “peasant meal”  featuring Osso Buco as the center star.  I have had the request for the Risotto and the Panzanella Salad recipes, so I will share...

Italian Food Ingredients
Italian Food Ingredients

I must document the side dishes from the latest Italian “peasant meal”  featuring Osso Buco as the center star.  I have had the request for the Risotto and the Panzanella Salad recipes, so I will share these here as perfect sides for a classic Italian Dinner.

Arborio Rice
Arborio Rice

This rice is the key to a great Risotto as well as good ingredients.  I always like to start with homemade stock for this treat. Many steer away from Risotto thinking it is too time consuming, but I can promise this is a great activity in the kitchen as a dinner party commences.  Give your guests a station at the stove and a glass of wine and they can create this centerpiece for your meal.

Classic Risotto
Classic Risotto

Classic Risotto

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of Italian Arborio Rice
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 3 cups hot stock, chicken, beef or vegetable stock. I always have a bit more ready as this is not an exact science.  This stock must be hot for the best results.
  • ¾ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. In a deep skillet, braiser, or Dutch oven, sauté the onion in the melted butter until golden brown, then add in the garlic and cook another 3 – 5 minutes.  Watching to not burn the garlic.
  2. Add in the rice and coat the rice well with the butter and vegetables.  Then add in the wine.  Coating the rice well.
  3. Then begin to slowly add the stock to the rice mixture.  Start with one cup and then continue adding about ½ cup at a time.  Stirring frequently.  As the liquid cooks down, add stock as needed.  The mixture will continue to get creamier as you slowly add the broth.  The timing on this process is usually about 22 minutes starting when you begin to add the stock.
  4. Taste the Risotto at the end to get the rice to the consistency you would like.
  5. As the final step, stir in the grated cheese and grind some black pepper to finish this dish and serve immediately.

This recipe should serve four. If you are having eight, create a second pot to make the second batch of Risotto. This weekend, I added mushrooms to one pot that I had prepared in advance.  Here is the link to making memorable mushrooms.

Panzanella Bread Salad
Panzanella Bread Salad

Panzanella Bread Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of rustic bread, cubed, can be day-old
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasonings, to season the croutons
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced in half moons
  • 2 – 3 gloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of dried Italian seasonings, to season the dressing
  • ¼ cup of red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. The toasting of the bread always starts a controversy here.  Some like the bread just toasted and broken, others like it pan sautéed with the salt and pepper and dried Italian seasonings to make a more formal crouton.  Cool these croutons on a sheet pan to allow them to dry out.  Warning, these croutons will all be eaten if you leave these on the side in the kitchen.  They are so good!   I am an advocate of taking the time to sauté  these croutons and add yet another layer of flavor to this salad.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the vegetables and garlic and toss.
  3. Create the dressing by combining the oil, vinegar and dried Italian seasonings along with some salt and pepper.  Some will add about ½ teaspoon of Dijon mustard to this dressing, others will omit.  This mustard adds a great punch of flavor.
  4. I suggest dressing this vegetable salad with the croutons and the dressing about 20 minutes before you are ready to serve to further develop these flavors. I will often finish with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  5. Serve at room temperature.

This is a fabulous side for any Italian Meal and a wonderful salad in the summer with the freshest of vegetables available.

This Panzanella can take on a Greek theme by adding about 8 ounces of diced feta cheese and about ½ cup of kalamata or black olives, pitted.

The Risotto and Panzanella salad were perfect additions to our Italian “peasant meal” of Osso Buco.