Massimo Bottura’s Risotto Cacio Y Pepe Requires 2 Pounds of Parmigiano-Regianno for the Richest Italian Rice Dish You’ll Ever HaveMay 24, 2017
It takes a special kind of soul to create good things from otherwise tragic circumstances. One such person is Massimo Bottura, chef of no less than the restaurant hailed as the world’s very best: Osteria Francescana. In light of the earthquakes which struck the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy (where he also grew up) in 2012, Bottura sought to find a way to use up the close-to-a-thousand wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano that were damaged in the process. His ingenious solution? To milk them for all they’re worth—quite literally.
For this clever recipe, Bottura first creates a Parmiggiano-Reggiano “broth” where two pounds (practically equivalent to a kilo!) of the cheese—and we do mean the real stuff that comes from a block—is simmered in water and allowed to steep for a few hours. After an overnight stint in the fridge you should expect to find three distinct layers form in the broth: a layer of now-flavorless solids on the bottom (which the recipe has you discard); a middle, milk-like layer (which carries much of the cheese’s flavor essence, and is used as the primary liquid component of the risotto); and a top layer of “cream” (which is stirred into the rice mixture for additional richness toward the end).
Cooking the risotto itself on the stovetop mostly follows the conventional method of making risotto, where you begin by sautéing aromatics, mix in the rice, then add in the liquid little by little, stirring often along the way, until all the broth is used and the rice is at the perfect al dente stage. So, no, this isn’t the easiest or quickest to make—you do have to keep watch of the mixture on the pot and be ready to keep stirring to prevent it form sticking to the pot—but it can be done right with patience. (See our previous take on Marcella Hazan’s Risotto for tips and more detailed instructions).
With a short ingredient list and minimal other flavorings—no herbs, no meat, no wine—beyond the Parmiggiano-Reggiano and the pepper, you may think little of the resulting pale yellow rice mixture that emerges as a result. But take a spoonful and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. This stuff is rich. A spoonful feels like a powerful wham of the parm, but not in the sense that it tastes too salty; rather, its nuttiness and slight sweetness shine through, with the pungent zest of black pepper to keep it from being cloying. Take this recipe as an exemplar of how—with proper know-how, as well as the willingness to think out of the box—even the simplest of ideas can be elevated to be the very best.
Risotto Cacio e Pepe
Adapted from Saveur
Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 10 hrs 40 mins
Ingredients: Parmesan Broth
- 2 lbs Parmiggiano-Reggiano, coarsley grated
- 6 cups parmesan broth
- ⅓ cup reserved parmesan cream
- 2 tbsp butter
- 3 shallots, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
- parsley leaves
Procedure: Parmesan broth
- Combine parmesan and 8½ cups water in a saucepan over medium-low heat. When the cheese becomes stringy, remove from heat.
- Let cool to room temperature, and repeat heating once more. Refrigerate broth 8 hours or overnight.
- The next day, the broth should have separated into 3 distinct layers: a cream layer, a broth layer, and solids on the bottom. Carefully remove the top cream layer and reserve. Strain the broth, discarding remaining solids on the bottom.
- Heat broth in a saucepan over medium heat; set aside and keep warm.
- In a separate saucepan, heat butter over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic to saucepan; cook, stirring, until soft, 3 minutes.
- Add rice to saucepan with shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add reserved stock 1⁄2 cup at a time, cooking and stirring often until each addition is absorbed before adding more.
- Continue cooking and stirring until rice is tender and creamy, about 20-22 minutes.
- Stir in the reserved parmesan cream and freshly-cracked pepper to taste.
- Garnish with parsley leaves and serve.