Tonight, I was craving a big bowl of risotto. I was out of wine (damn) but I wondered if I could use a different alcohol instead. I realized we had vodka in the liquor cabinet and almost simultaneously realized there was a bowl full of plump, garden tomatoes – compliments of our neighbor. Then I thought, mmmm vodka sauce! If you’ve never had it, it’s a tasty pasta sauce made with tomato, vodka, and cream.
Now, I’m no expert on risotto, in that I don’t even know how good my technique is, BUT I’ve been making it for a good 12 years, at least a decade without using a recipe. It’s a go-to meal when I have leftover produce to use up. There are endless possibilities for recipes, all it takes is a variation in the liquid, broth, veggies, protein, herbs, spices, and cheese and you can do wonders. Also, do not agonize over the proportions. I happened to scan the risotto bag while I was cooking, just to compare my own method with the instructions there, and my risotto took 2 less cups of broth, and still came out perfect. So give it a try. Put on a little music, pour yourself a drink, and prepare to spend some time stirring. Risotto cannot be rushed. It’s a labor of love. But well worth the effort.
Vodka Sauce Risotto:
-1 tbsp. olive oil
-1 onion, finely diced
-2 large garlic cloves, minced
-2 tbsp butter, then more for finishing
-2 cups Arborio rice
-1 cup of vodka
-4 fresh tomatoes, chopped
-6 cups chicken broth, very warm
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-handful of fresh basil leaves
-1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
Plus salt and pepper to taste.
-Heat olive oil in a large pan, and add onions. Sweat for several minutes until softened. Add garlic and stir. You want a sizzle, but no browning. Next add the uncooked rice to the pan and let it “toast” for about 3 minutes. Add vodka to deglaze. Keep stirring, and let all the vodka absorb.
-Throw in the tomatoes, and then adding 1 cup at a time, on medium-low to medium heat, pour in the warm broth. You want to wait till each cupful gets absorbed before adding the next. Stir often. The rice will begin to plump up. Taste it to see if it needs more broth. You want it tender.
-If it is, reduce the heat even lower until low, and add the cream, salt and pepper and fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped. Stir in freshly grated cheese. Add more cheese to garnish.
Serve at room temperature. Trust me on this. Actually, it’s a bajillion times better, in my opinion, cold. Like grab the pot out of the fridge and a fork, and go to town.
-Substitute sundried tomatoes instead of fresh, and parsley instead of basil.
-Serve with chicken breast, sliced on top
-Add a beaten egg and a handful of panko to cold leftover rice, and roll into balls. Fry. Dip in marinara. Delicious.