Last night the Neapolitan chef Francesco Apreda visited Milan to present a special meal to a lucky selection of guests at the Ratana restaurant.
As part of a special dinner organized by Identita Golose and sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, the chef - who runs the Imàgo restaurant inside the Hassler Hotel in Rome - presented a range of five dishes, each symbolizing his abundant love for rice.
Codfish with Red Miso and Spiced Basmati Rice
Puffed rice, spiced Basmati, rice vinegar and miso were all on display. The main attraction of the dinner was the chef's famous creamy risotto with cheese and pepper - a dish that shocks many because Apreda comes from Naples - a place that he explained is not known for risotto. "I'm from Naples, I live in Rome and for me to come to Milan and make food with a base of rice it's something that's very strange - Milan is the capital of risotto. Even my mother doesn't know about risotto - she boils rice, puts tomato inside and mixes in parmesan cheese."
Guests were wowed by Apreda's simple and refined menu that celebrated rice in all its glory. Speaking with the chef after the meal FDL were lucky enough to tap into his masterful rice skills and squeeze five top tips on exactly how to make the perfect risotto:
1: You must find authentic Carnarolii rice - sometimes in Italy it can be labeled Carnaroli but it's not authentic. You must know the provenance of the rice. This type of rice that's dried very slowly and you can only find it in the Northern parts of italy - Pavia, Mantova - these places are the best and you must make sure your rice is from these parts of Italy. If it's from Sicily or Calabria it's not right.
2: Do not add salt at the end - always add the salt at the beginning of cooking otherwise it will never be soaked into the rice. You must let the salty flavor be sucked into the rice - if you put at the end the final flavor will never be the same.
3: You must toast the rice properly. Rice must be very hot in the pan with butter, a little oil, shallot or onion - make the pan very hot and make sure the rice is heated all the way through. If you add the wine and the pan is not very hot the rice will not be good. The rice must be cooking throughout the whole process - even when you begin to add the stock. If the rice stops to boil the consistency will not be right - never let your stock stop boiling.
4: Keep the rice turning - you have to make the rice release it's starch - it's this that makes a nice starchy sauce. Some people say you should not move the rice but keep it turning, this will make the creamiest risotto.
5: The final tip is probably the most important. When you cook risotto you must stop just before you think it's ready. The rice must be taken off al dente and left to sit for two minutes away from the heat because when you add the butter and the parmesan, if the rice is too hot, the butter separates with the starch and you end up with a very liquid based rice. If you leave to sit for 2-3 minutes, add the butter and cheese and move a lot, making a rice wave by moving the pan, this will give you a beautiful creamy finish.
For those wanting to try at home - here's 5 Great Risotto Recipes from some of the world's best chefs.