Insalata caprese, otherwise known as tomato and mozzarella salad, is a popular salad around the world. It was named for the island of Capri in Campania. Its elegance is in its simplicity – relying on sourcing top quality tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil and basil. Even better, it takes 5 minutes to prepare. Still, its ubiquitousness draws a yawn from some, bored by the mere sight of it on a menu.
I have always viewed it as the salad version of pizza margherita. I also see many of the pastas as the pasta versions of pizza margherita (gnocchi alla sorrentina, pasta al forno, etc.)
This got me thinking to the risotto version of pizza margherita. Tomato risotto is a traditional Italian dish. It is also traditional when making risotto to “mantecare” the risotto to finish it. This typically means to stir in a pat of butter. I decided instead to top the risotto with a small piece of burrata cheese (the best mozzarella cheese you can find can be substituted here). My children love “pizza rice” and so will you. It is also a good crowd-pleasing yet sophisticated dish for entertaining (particularly as it is vegetarian, gluten-free and can be modified to be vegan).
Risotto al pomodoro (tomato risotto)
1 onion, skin and ends removed, finely chopped
25 grams butter
20 mls extra-virgin olive oil
400 grams risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
480 grams cherry tomatoes (peel the skin for a more elegant presentation), fresh or jarred
400 mls chicken or vegetable stock
5 gms (1 teaspoon) salt
10 basil leaves, rinsed, dried and finely sliced
40 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
200 grams burrata cheese (optional)
Heat the onion with the olive oil and butter until the onion is translucent and soft, but not coloured (10 to 15 minutes). Add the rice and stir to toast until it makes a squeaking sound, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add 60 mls of stock, stirring until it evaporates (1 to 2 minutes). Add the tomatoes, salt and 150 mls of stock, stirring continually.
When all the broth is absorbed, add another 150 mls and repeat. Keep enough liquid in the pan and stir continuously so that the rice does not stick to the pan and cooks evenly.
Keep adding the broth until the rice is cooked (about 20 minutes in total from when the rice was added). It should be firm to bite but not unpleasantly hard. There should be enough liquid to coat the rice but not so much that the rice floats in it. Remove the rice from the heat. Stir in the basil and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Serve topped with 50 grams each of burrata cheese (optional).