Valtellina is celebrated for robust red wine and robust cooking to go with it. I was fascinated to find so many dishes new to me then, pastas, polenta, and fritters made with buckwheat flour, bresaola—beef tenderloin cured in the mountain air and sliced like prosciutto—and dumplings and other dishes using spinach. Among them was an excellent risotto with spinach.
I tried and tried to reproduce it after we got back to Milan, but it lacked something of the mellowness and teasing fragrance of the original. I had put it completely out of mind when, a great many years later, it came up in conversation with a woman who happened to be from Sondrio and who said, “I’ll tell you how I make it. Try it and see if it is the way you remember it.” It was indeed, and I found I had been omitting the leeks and celery from the flavor base, which when sautéed all together with the spinach, produced that teasingly fragrant and mellow quality that I had long before sought.
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.