Solve the Amarone Pairing Dilemma: Risotto al Vino Rosso
BY ERIC GUIDO | MARCH 19, 2021
In my recent article, Valpolicella & Soave: The Times, They Are A Changin’, I spent a good amount of time addressing the fact that Amarone can and should be brought to the dinner table. I’m not talking about the most hedonistic wines, bold reds that still find their best pairing with a plate of ripened cheeses, but rather the style of Amarone that has been gaining popularity, wines with lower residual sugar, more minerality and alcohol percentages that clock in below 16%. These wines are a perfect match for stews, braises and both meat and pasta dishes that incorporate rich sauces.
However, whenever in a bind, a great option is to make a Risotto that uses the same (or similar) wine you are drinking, which works perfectly with Amarone. A simple Risotto al Vino Rosso made with Arborio rice, stock, wine, onion (or shallot), butter and cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano) will always save the day. However, why not take it to the next level? In the preparation below, we’re going to add a few simple ingredients and extra steps to the mix that will complement the complex flavors and aromas of Amarone, while also creating a stunning presentation that will win the heart of every foodie, from pro chef to your favorite Italian grandma.
Prep the risotto ingredients.
Red Wine Risotto with Roasted Red Grapes
This dish is all about exciting flavors that come together in perfect unity to please the senses. Sweet meets salty meets acidity on the palate and leaves you wanting for another bite. This Risotto is sure to be a showstopper.
5 tbsp butter
1-½ quarts of chicken stock*
2 cups risotto rice (Arborio is fine, but Carnaroli is preferred)
½ red onion (small dice)
1 ¼ cups Amarone (or Valpolicella Ripasso)
3 tbsp of pancetta or thick-cut prosciutto (small dice)
1 carrot (fine dice)
1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
2 tsp fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup red seedless grapes
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, and spread out one cup of small, red seedless grapes. Place them in the oven and allow to roast for 1½ hours. When they are done, move to an area to cool completely.
After roasting for 1½ hours, move the grapes to an area to cool completely.
2. Place the chicken stock in a pot over a low flame and allow it to come to a simmer.
3. In a sauté pan, add 3 tablespoons of butter, and place over a medium flame. Once the butter has melted, add the small dice of pancetta. Allow the pancetta to cook for five minutes, or until crispy, and then remove the pancetta and set on the side for later.
4. In the same sauté pan, add the diced carrot, and cook it in the butter and reduced fat from the pancetta. After about two minutes, add the onions. Allow the mixture to sweat in the butter until the onions become translucent.
5. Now add the Arborio or Carnaroli rice to the pan. Stir to assure that the rice is coated in the butter, and allow it to toast slightly, but do not allow it to take on any color.
6. Add the red wine to the pan and increase the flame to medium-high. Set a timer for 19 minutes as a guide. While stirring, allow the red wine to cook down until it has reduced by half.
Add the red wine to the pan.
7. Next, bring the flame back down to medium, and add a ladle of stock while constantly stirring. Each time the stock cooks down to the point where the rice begins to form trails in the pan as the spoon stirs it, add another ladle of stock. When there are about eight minutes left on the timer, sprinkle a small pinch of salt into the risotto.
8. Continue stirring and adding stock as needed until the timer reads three minutes remaining. Then add 2/3 of the cooked pancetta back into the pan and stir to combine.
9. It is at this time that you should also taste for seasoning and doneness. A proper al dente should have a very slight crunch to it at its core. Be careful, that you don’t add too much stock, but also keep in mind that the 19-minute timer is only a guide, taste will really tell you when it’s done.
Continue stirring and adding stock as needed.
10. When the risotto is al dente, remove it from the heat. Add the last 2 tablespoons of butter and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, along with a few cracks of fresh pepper, and stir to combine.
11. Allow the risotto to rest for two minutes, and taste one last time for seasoning and consistency. If the risotto is too thick, a small amount of stock can be added to loosen it up.
Plate the risotto and top with pancetta, parsley and roasted grapes.
12. Plate the risotto into small, heated bowls, then sprinkle with parsley, the remaining pancetta, and spread out some of the roasted grapes on top before serving.
*A common fear people have is making their own stock, which really shouldn’t intimidate you at all. Making stock is actually one of the most simple preparations you can master, and it’s truly worth your time. However, when you make stock, do it in large quantities because it freezes well. For more details on making your own stock, check out our Stock Essentials episode from Vinous in the Kitchen. If you don’t want to make your own, don’t fret because stock and its health benefits have never been as popular as they are today, meaning that there’s an amazing selection of wholesome, often organic and extremely high-quality stock in the market.