Talk of Italian desserts and you will most likely think of a Tiramisu, a Panna Cotta or a Zabaglione. But there are other lovely desserts, usually made to order in many good restaurants in Italy, that can turn out to be a a revelation. On one trip, I sampled a Saffron and Pistachio Risotto at a small restaurant in the Southern Italian province of Calabria. The chef was kind enough to share his recipe with me and I have made it on innumerable occasions. However, I am sharing the recipe for the first time. The sweet nuttiness of the pistachios and the mellow spicy fragrance of saffron makes this dessert sing.
- 150 gm risotto rice (Arborio works best)
- 50 gm clarified butter
- 50 gm pistachio paste
- 50 gm ricotta (to serve as accompaniment)
- 25 gm grated white chocolate
- 25 gm sugar
- 10 gm chilled butter
- ½ gm saffron
- 150 ml milk
- 50 ml sweet dessert wine (moscato goes very well)
- 50 ml cream
- 50 ml condensed milk
- 50 ml water
- 2 ml pure vanilla extract
- Generous pinch each of orange and lemon zest
- In a pan, mix the milk, cream, condensed milk, saffron, vanilla and water. Warm it. This will be our stock that will be slowly incorporated into the risotto.
- Heat clarified butter and tip in the Arborio rice. Toast until fragrant.
- Add the wine and cook until the rice completely absorbs it.
- Next, pour in a ladle of the stock and cook on gentle heat until it is absorbed. Add another ladle and repeat.
- Continue till the entire stock has been absorbed, the rice is tender but not overcooked, and the risotto acquires a creamy consistency. This should take 16-20 minutes.
- Mix in the grated white chocolate, the zests, a little chilled butter and shake the pan rapidly to fluff the risotto. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes.
- Now prepare the pistachio sauce.
- Cook the pistachio paste and sugar together until it acquires a sauce-like consistency. A little milk or water can be added to adjust consistency.
- Serve the risotto with a generous drizzle of the pistachio sauce and a small wedge of ricotta cheese. Other soft cheeses such as burrata also work.