Swiss chard, Parmesan and mascarpone risotto

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Preparation info

  • Serves

    4–6

    as a main course
    • Difficulty

      Easy

Appears in

Vegetables: The new food heroes

Vegetables

By Peter Gordon

Published 2007

  • About

Risotto isn’t hard to make. All you need to remember is that the stock should be hot when you add it. The rice has ultimately to have a lovely texture (although Italians have hugely differing ideas about whether rice should be served soft or al dente – so you can’t really go wrong) and you can never cook too much! It reheats well the next day but is even better turned into fritters – roll it into balls, roll these in polenta or breadcrumbs and fry The Italians would never eat risotto as a main course, but in winter I think it’s a great idea when served with steamed greens and crusty bread. I always use volume measurements when making risotto; so you’ll need a measuring jug for the rice.

Ingredients

  • 2 litres vegetable stock (you’ll need almost all of this but you may have some left over)
  • 600 ml risotto rice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 large leek, sliced (use both the green and white part of the leeks, and wash it if it looks gritty)
  • 2 bay leaves, cut in half
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
  • 500 g Swiss chard
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 200 g mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
  • 3 good handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Method

You’ll need a pot with a capacity of 4–5 litres. Keep the stock simmering in another pan on the back of the stove. Heat the pot and add the rice and olive oil and cook over a moderate-to-high heat to colour and toast the rice lightly. This may seem a little odd, but the toasting adds another layer of flavour to the finished dish.

Once the rice is toasted, tip it into a heatproof bowl and place the pot back on the stove. Add the butter and let it cook to a nut-brown colour, then add the leek and bay leaves, and sauté until wilted. Return the rice to the pot with the 2 teaspoons of flaky sea salt and mix it in, then add about 500ml stock. It may bubble up and steam, so be a little careful. Stir the rice until all of the stock is absorbed, then add another 500 ml of stock and stir this in. Turn the heat down to a simmer.

Cut the chard stalks from the leaves and slice the stalks into pieces 5mm thick, then mix these into the risotto. Roll the leaves into a tight bunch and shred them.

Add the thyme and shredded chard leaves to the risotto and again add some stock. The key with risotto is to add stock as required – never letting it sink below the level of the rice, but never drowning it either. Keep adding stock and stirring the risotto until the rice is al dente. When it is, add the mascarpone and keep simmering. The rice will take about 20–28 minutes to cook, so keep tasting a few grains after 20 minutes to reach the desired texture – I like mine with just a little bite to it.

When it’s ready, mix in the oregano and half the Parmesan, then take off the heat and cover tightly. Leave to rest for 5 minutes, then mix in a few tablespoons of stock and the extra-virgin olive oil, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

To Serve

Spoon into bowls and scatter with the remaining Parmesan.