Risotto Carbonara: Or, How I Threw Down the Integrale Gauntlet

Okay, so this is a completely shameless move on my part.  Here I am, over a month since my last post, and I come tripping back onto the scene with this.

And what, exactly, is this? you might ask.

This, my friends, is Risotto Carbonara.  Risotto all dressed up with bacon and eggs.  Or, dressed down, as the case may be.  It’s my favorite pasta dish in creamy short-grained rice form.  Only this time, it’s not masquerading as “healthy” because I added some kale or courgettes to pump up the nutritional value.  Nope – this is down and dirty deliciousness.

Now, I’ve done risotto before.  I’ve even done healthy risotto before.  But this is different.  This is part of a Marx Foods challenge featuring their Integrale Rice.  According to the Marx Foods website, Integrale is:

an Italian brown risotto rice. Like all risotto rice varieties, slow cooking integrale rice on the stove top with multiple infusions of stock causes it to absorb the stock’s flavor and release starch into the pan, thickening the remaining stock into an incredibly delicious sauce.

However, because the outer bran is left on, the finished risotto has a nuttier brown rice flavor, distinct grains, and a little more chew to its finished texture. The bran also includes additional nutrients not found in white risotto rice.

Since I’ve done brown rice risotto before, I knew this challenge was right up my alley.  The first round of the challenge asks 15 participants to develop a savory risotto recipe featuring the Integrale rice.  I knew I wanted something that would showcase the creamy, starchy consistency of the finished product, but that would also allow the toasty, nutty flavor profile of the whole-grain rice to shine.

I settled on a carbonara preparation for a few reasons.  First – bacon.  I mean, who doesn’t love bacon?  For this I chose an Italian-style pancetta.  I usually like to use an American-style bacon when I make carbonara because I like the smokiness it imparts.  Pancetta is traditionally not smoked, so it has a milder flavor profile.  I didn’t want the rice to be overpowered by the bacon, but rather complemented by it.  Second – Parmigiano Reggiano.  Nutty, salty, umami goodness.  Seemed like a perfect accompaniment to the nutty nature of this rice.  Third – egg yolks.  In a traditional pasta carbonara, raw eggs are stirred into hot pasta along with Parmigiano Reggiano to create a rich, creamy sauce.  For the risotto, I opted to top the finished product with a barely-poached egg so that the golden yolk could mix in with the creamy rice right at the very end.

The end result was nothing short of delightful.  Salty, creamy, nutty, slightly acidic (thanks to the addition of a dry white wine during the cooking of the risotto) – a perfectly balanced mix of flavors and textures.  The rice maintained its integrity throughout the cooking process, and was left slightly al dente, while still releasing its starches to create a creamy sauce that enrobed each grain.

Before I give you the recipe, let’s just discuss the details of this challenge.  Starting tomorrow (May 30), you can vote for your favorite Integrale recipe over on the Marx Foods website.   I think there are 15 of us, and I would sure appreciate your vote.  10 bloggers will proceed to the next round, which should be fun because it’s all about dessert risotto (and I’ve already got some good ideas up my sleeve for that one – it would really be a shame if I couldn’t share them).  So, you know, if you feel like it, head on over there and vote tomorrow.

Risotto Carbonara

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Yields: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Organic Italian Integrale Rice
  • 1/4 lb. pancetta, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used a Portuguese Vinho Verde because that’s what I had in my fridge)
  • 6-8 cups chicken stock, heated
  • 2 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano, grated, plus more for garnish
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 eggs, poached
  1. I like to begin by placing my chicken stock in a stock pot over medium-low heat on a burner next to the one I’ll be using to cook my ristto
  2. Heat a chef’s pan or large stock pot over medium heat
  3. Add the diced pancetta and cook slowly, allowing the fat to render out before the meat gets too brown.
  4. Once the pancetta is brown and crispy, remove it from the pan, leaving the rendered fat behind in the pan.  Reserve the cooked pancetta
  5. Add the diced onion to the pan, sauteeing until translucent
  6. Add the rice to the pan with the onion and fat from the pancetta.  Sautee the rice in the fat, stirring it around to coat all of the grains.  Cook until grains have become to look opaque in spots.
  7. Add the cup of wine to the pan, stirring the rice until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  8. Begin adding the hot stock a cup at the time, stirring after each addition until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Keep adding stock a cup a the time until the rice is al dente.  I used between 6 and 8 cups this time.
  9. Turn off the heat and add the grated cheese and all but about a tablespoon of the cooked pancetta (reserve a little for garnish).  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.  I like a lot of pepper.
  10. Spoon the risotto into flat pasta bowls – it should spread to fill the bottom of the bowl, but not have much excess liquid.
  11. Top with a very lightly poached egg and garnish with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and crispy pancetta.
  12. Enjoy!

Disclaimer:  I received a box of Organic Italian Integrale Rice free from Marx Foods as part of my participation in this contest.  The preceding opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated for this post.

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11 Comments on “Risotto Carbonara: Or, How I Threw Down the Integrale Gauntlet”

  1. 29 May 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    WOOHOO – Can’t wait to vote. B10 says “Risotto with BACON????” I think it’s his new “dream dish”. Short of the eggs and cheese, it looks delish for me, too. Would removing those change this dish that much?

    • 30 May 2012 at 5:23 am #

      You could certainly leave out the cheese and egg – it would change the flavor and texture slightly, but I think it would still be good. Just adjust the salt and pepper accordingly, since the Parmigiano adds some salt to the mix.

  2. 30 May 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Where do I vote? Why can’t I find it? What’s wrong with me?! In other news, I’ve always heard that guanciale and pecorino are the original flavas for carbonara but couldn’t find guanciale very easily until lately. Now the Spotted Trotter up the road has it all the time and I intend to utilize it for spaghetti or risotto carbonara. Great recipe, friend! Glad you’re back!

  3. 30 May 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Looks great Niki! Good luck on the competition!

  4. 30 May 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Absolutely stunning and mouthwatering. I love preparing carbonara with a poached egg on top and pairing it with risotto is such a great idea! Good luck in the contest!

  5. 30 May 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    Looks great. And I used the same wine for exactly the same reason. Good luck in the contest!

  6. 31 May 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    This is fabulous! Congrats on Top 9.

  7. 31 May 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    Oh goddess, is that an egg? I love dishes topped with poached eggs.

  8. 5 June 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    Saved for later. Wow, this looks great!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Nannerpuss (Or, If You Like, Banana Pudding) | life, in recipes - 31 May 2012

    [...] (until 1 PM PST tomorrow, in fact), so if you haven’t already, please go take a look at my Risotto Carbonara recipe, and then click over there and vote (for me, if you’re so inclined).  [...]

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