I first ate this splendid southern Italian rice dish in the courtyard of a handsome villa in Positano.
To start the stock, put the mussels in a wide, lidded pan (they must not be stacked more than 2 shells deep). Add the whole bottle of wine, cover and bring to the boil over a high heat. Give them a shake and continue cooking fiercely until the mussels open. Pour the lot through a colander into a bowl and leave to drain and cool.
Next, peel and behead the prawns (reserve the tails in the fridge, try not to eat too many!). Put all the prawn peelings in a medium saucepan with the stock vegetables, tomato paste, bay leaf and the stalks from the parsley, add 1.5 litres of water and bring to a simmer over a medium flame. Skim.
When the mussels are cool, transfer to a tray still in their shells, moisten with a little of their liquor, then clingfilm and refrigerate. Sieve the winy mussel liquor into the stock and skim again. Simmer the stock for 1 hour, then sieve and discard all the debris. Return to the boil, skim and reduce a little. Check the seasoning but be careful; mussel liquor tends to be salty. (This stock is also an excellent basis for fish soups and sauces.)
To make the risotto, heat the olive oil in your risotto pan, add the finely diced onion and garlic, then sweat until soft and translucent. Add the rice and sweat, stirring, until coated with oil and glistening. Add a soup ladle of stock and continue cooking and stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this procedure several times until the rice is ready.
Add the squid after the rice has been cooking for 15 minutes. The vongole have to be opened, so as soon as you drop the squid into the rice put the clams to open in a wide, lightly oiled frying pan over a very high heat. Pick them out as they open and set aside.
When you judge the rice to be nearly ready, add the infused saffron, the prawn tails, clams and mussels. Add another ladle of stock and the parsley, and then stir carefully. Serve directly from the cooking pot.
© 1996 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.