First served ten years ago, the cacio-e-pere pasta is one of our signature dishes, and a revolt would ensue if we attempted to take it off the menu. However, for the home cook, a stuffed fresh pasta can be a challenge, and a time-consuming prospect. The same great combination of pear and cheese can be made into a simple risotto dish, perfect for an easy family meal or when cooking for a large gathering. Chef Nicotra transferred the flavors of the cacio e pere into a risotto, and we now serve both. If you have a homemade stock to substitute for the water in this recipe, it will enhance the flavor. If not, you can make a quick stock with the cores of the pears and the trimmings of the onion, leeks, and celery. He lastly drizzles each serving with a balsamic traditional vinegar or reduction.
- 8 cups light chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 finely chopped onion
- 1 cup sliced leeks, white and pale-green parts only, washed
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups Carnaroli rice (or Arborio if Carnaroli is not available)
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 medium Bartlett pears, peeled and grated
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
- 1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano
- 1 cup thinly sliced celery and celery leaves
- Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, or reduction of regular balsamic vinegar (see below)
Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and leeks. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the onion and leeks are wilted but not browned, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Add the rice, and stir to coat in the oil. Pour in the wine, and cook, stirring, until it’s absorbed, about 1 to 2 minutes. Ladle in enough hot stock just to cover the rice. Adjust the heat so the risotto is simmering, and cook, stirring constantly, until all liquid has been absorbed. Continue to add hot stock in small batches (just enough to moisten the rice completely) and cook until each successive batch has been absorbed, stirring constantly, until the rice mixture is creamy but still al dente, about 18 minutes total; add the grated pears about halfway through the cooking time. It’s okay if you have a little stock left over.
Remove the skillet from the heat, and vigorously stir in the butter in teaspoon-size pieces until absorbed. Sprinkle with the Grana Padano, and stir to combine all into a creamy mixture. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve the risotto in shallow bowls, with a sprinkle of celery and celery leaves and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduction.
For the balsamic reduction: Pour 1 cup balsamic vinegar into a skillet, and boil until reduced to 1/3 cup. Cool completely before using. It will keep for several weeks refrigerated.