Sunday, March 8, 2009

Festa Italiana: Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Peas



Two fabulous, fun and talented bloggers, Marie of Proud Italian Cook, and Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita, are hosting the blog party to end all blog parties, Festa Italiana:


I am so there! I come from half Italian stock, so I know that any party hosted by Italians will be a raucous good time, and the food will be the star. My mother's parents were both from Italy. My grandmother was born in Nola, outside of Naples, and came to the U.S. when she was five weeks old. Apparently she was a premature infant, and I heard this story about her trip over on the boat many times:

"I was so small, they had to put me in a shoebox in front of the oven. My head was the size of a grapefruit."

As she got older, she embellished a little bit, which only made me love the story even more:

"I was so small, they had to put me in a shoebox in the oven. My head was the size of an orange."

I have to admit that the part about them putting her IN the oven concerned me a little bit, but seeing as she grew up healthy as an ox and lived on her own until she was 93, I guess the makeshift neonatal care worked out okay in the end.

My grandmother was an amazing cook, and she loved us by feeding us. She took great pride in her cooking, and nothing made her happier than watching the people she loved enjoy her food. When I think of her, I can still see her beaming whenever I told her that her cookies were the best ever, or that the meatballs were even more incredible than I remembered. She never got to meet my two youngest children, which makes me really sad, but whenever my mother and I watch my one year old chow down, we always tell her "Great Grandma would LOVE to watch you eat." I think of her all the time when I cook. She would not like the mess I make in the kitchen, and she would tell me so. And I don't remember her ever hurting herself or breaking anything when she cooked, whereas this is at least a weekly event for me. But we are forever bonded by our love of cooking, and I think of her almost every time I'm in the kitchen.

My contribution to Festa Italiana is Tyler Florence's Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Peas. When I asked my hubs what he wanted for dinner on his birthday, he said "risotto." I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't risotto. But hey! I couldn't have been happier, since I love risotto and am always game for trying a new version. Tyler says that this particular version "is a great dish to serve on a Sunday night when The Sopranos come on. It's classy and understated." We found that it was also great on a Wednesday night when Wow Wow Wubzy came on. Just in case you were wondering.

Tyler suggests using assorted mushrooms in this, such as portobellos, crimini, and chanterelle. I used a mix of mushrooms and went heavy on the baby bellas:


They are not particularly wild, but I love them anyway.

Like most risottos, this one was easy to make. Risotto gets a bad rap for requiring constant stirring, but I've never found that to be necessary. Yes, it needs to be stirred frequently, but you can leave it for a minute here and there to go do something else, which is imperative in my house (and the reason why it should be against the law for me to make caramel).


We loved this! It was creamy, earthy, and delicious. I think that it was a worthy birthday meal. I might make it again on my birthday, in fact.

It's not to late to join the party! Marie and Maryann are receiving party guests through tomorrow, March 9. Go here for more info.

Marie and Maryann, thank you for hosting this fun event. It's been a blast!!

24 comments:

Heather said...

hah! your grandma sounds awesome! the putting her in the oven would scare me a little bit, too ;) glad she never got to the point where her head was the size of a kumquat!

this risotto looks really tasty :) happy sunday!

Elyse said...

Your grandmother's stories sound fabulous! I love the embellishment! This risotto looks absolutely delicious. Peas go so well with a dish like this. I can't wait to try this one! Italian food is my favorite!

Jessica said...

What a wonderful, incredibly sweet post. I had a great-grandmother until I was 14 and I attribute quite a bit of my kitchen know-how to her. I loved your stories about your great-grandmother. As far as I'm concerned, risotto is a food group. This recipe looks super delicious.

pinkstripes said...

Your risotto looks yummy! I love your grandmother's story. Did she ever say why they had to put in the oven?

Melissa said...

I STILL have never made risotto, but every time I see someone make it, I think "I've gotta make that!" Maybe this will inspire me to actually do it! Looks amazing!

Audrey said...

When I was little, my mom (who isn't even remotely Italian) made rice with peas, which I loved... I also loved to talk to my Grandma about food, and what I was cooking, and she would always tell me how delicious it was even if we were only talking on the phone. So your story made me think of her, which meant instant happiness. This combination looks wonderful. I love risotto (as you know) and mushrooms, so I'm going to make this combination next time. Ciao!
Audrey

Di said...

That looks and sounds delicious. I go through cycles with risotto. I made it quite a bit for a while, then didn't make it at all for a number of years. Lately, I'm back to making it again. Mushrooms sound really good right now.

Natashya said...

That is so funny about the shoebox! I was kept in a drawer, nobody mentioned if it was in the dresser at the time or not..
I have always wanted an Italian grandmother, someone who is covered in flour and always feeding people, sounds so comforting.
Great job on the risotto!

Pam said...

I love peas and mushrooms with my rice so I am sure I would REALLY LOVE it with risotto. Looks fantastic!

natalia said...

Ciao ! What a nice idea for a birthday !! Of course I love risotto! I love your Granma story !!

Katherine Aucoin said...

Grandmothers are awesome and leave with such lasting memories. Your risotto came out perfect. It looks so creamy and I love the mushrooms in there too!

Teanna said...

I come from half Italian stock as well! There is nothing better than having an Italian grandmother! And my family is from Naples as well! And I have family in Nola! I swear, Cathy, I think we're meant to be long lost friends!

Elra said...

Risotto sound so delicious, I like it because of the mushrooms and the peas.
Cheers,
elra

Maryann said...

I loved this post! Thanks for joining the festa!
maryann xox

MacDuff said...

Do you know the weirdest thing? My grandmother used to say the same thing about a shoebox in front of the oven. Although her story was always: "I was born dead. But they put me in a shoebox on the oven door, and I came back to life." You can't really exaggerate more after you've already declared yourself to have been dead at one point, I guess.

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

I love the nutty taste of mushrooms, so I'm thinking this would be perfect! I've never made risotto...guess I should someday!

Maria said...

Great entry to the party!! I love a good risotto and this one looks stellar!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Cathy, This was a beautiful post, I love how you said that you were forever bonded with your Grandmother. I hope one day my grandaughter feels the same about me. She would be so proud of all the cooking you do now. I wish she could come to our festa too! Thank you for joining us with this delicious risotto, can't wait to try a big plate of it!
xox, Marie

Bridgett said...

I think Italian grandmother have the best stories sometimes, I know mine sure do! I love mushroom risotto and I think it makes even better fried rice balls the next day. So yummy!

AmyRuth said...

Ah Cathy, your sweet sentiments about your Grandmother and your sweet little One was enough to make me tear up. I loved hearing about your precious family's heritage. Oh yea, and the food was rockin! So glad you liked it. Sounds like a group right up your alley.
AmyRuth

AmyRuth said...

Ah Cathy, your sweet sentiments about your Grandmother and your sweet little One was enough to make me tear up. I loved hearing about your precious family's heritage. Oh yea, and the food was rockin! So glad you liked it. Sounds like a group right up your alley.
AmyRuth

n.o.e said...

Cathy, you really have the risotto thing mastered. I've only made it once or twice and I'm never really confident about it. This version looks great, and comes complete with wonderful grandmother memories!
Nancy

Pamela said...

Okay...I almost spit my tea when you said it was great when Wow Wow Wubzy comes on! I think that we are making/eating dinner at the same time of day! The risotto looks really yummy.

jillian said...

I am half Italian as well :) I love anything wit mushrooms and this looks delicious!

 
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