Author Talk with John Coletta: Risotto & Beyond

On June 7, John Coletta, author of Risotto & Beyond: 100 Authentic Italian Rice Recipes for Antipasti, Soups, Salads, Risotti, One-Dish Meals, and Desserts (Rizzoli 2018) will be at Read It and Eat! talking about his recently published book on risotto, one of the most traditional dishes in Italian Cuisine and yet the least explored. Coletta, a restauranteur and chef, will also be presenting a selection of rice-based tastings. His book, with its wonderful photographs, contains 100 authentic dishes and demonstrates how to bring the full range of Italian rice cooking into our home kitchens. Dishes range range from the familiar such as arancini, crochettes, risotti, soups and rice puddings to the more exotic like rice salads, fritters, bracioli, and gelatos. Attendees will get to take home a 500 gm tin of Acquerello Rice, a prized Carnaroli rice from Vercelli in Piemonte (retail value of $22), considered the best rice for making risotto.RisottoandBeyond_p062

Chilled Rice Soup with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped prosciutto fat (see note below)

½ medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped to make 2/3 cup

1 stalk celery, finely chopped to make 2/3 cup

2 bay leaves, preferably fresh

1 teaspoon finely ground sea salt1

teaspoon finely ground white pepper

1 cup Arborio superfino rice

Just over ½ ounce Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated to make ¼ cup

3 cups halved thin-skinned cherry tomatoes or blanched, peeled, and chopped plum or Roma tomatoes

1 bunch basil, leaves only, roughly chopped to make 6 tablespoons


Finely ground sea salt and white pepper

1 cup cold vegetable broth

2 cups quartered thin-skinned cherry tomatoes

1 bunch basil, leaves only, roughly chopped to make

6 tablespoons, plus ¼ cup chiffonade of basil leaves or small clusters of Genovese basil, for garnish

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

Place the butter, olive oil, and prosciutto fat in a heavy-gauge stockpot over low heat, stirring until the butter melts and the fat becomes soft and translucent but not browned. Add the onion, celery, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Increase the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to soften but are not browned.

Add 6 cups water and heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Immediately reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, covered, until the vegetables are soft and tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in the rice, cover the pot, and continue to simmer for another 25 to 30 minutes, until the rice kernels are tender.

Prepare an ice-water bath in your sink. You will need this to cool the pot. Remove the pot from the heat. Discard the bay leaves and stir in the cheese, tomatoes, and chopped basil. Transfer the pot to the ice-water bath and cool the soup to slightly below room temperature. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.


The following day, taste the soup for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed. If the soup has become too thick, thin it to the desired consistency with the cold vegetable broth.

In a small bowl, combine the cherry tomatoes, chopped basil leaves, olive oil, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls. Drizzle each portion with olive oil; top with the tomato-basil garnish and the basil chiffonade.

NOTE: If prosciutto fat is unavailable, substitute an additional 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil Be careful not to burn

Arancini with Fresh Mozzarella and Italian Parsley (Arancini Di Riso Con Fior Di Latte E Prezzemolo)


ARANCINI; SERVES 4RisottoandBeyond_p090

3 cups Arborio or Carnaroli superfine rice

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cubed

2 teaspoons finely ground sea salt

3 large eggs, well beaten

¼ cup sweet white rice flour

1 small bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, coarsely chopped and lightly packed to make ½ cup

2½ ounces Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, finely grated to make 1 cup

1 pound fior di latte (fresh cow’s milk mozzarella in liquid, drained and cut into ¼-inch cubes


3 large eggs, well beaten

2 cups fine dry Italian, panko, or gluten-free breadcrumbs

4 to 5 cups high-smoke-point oil (safflower, rice bran, soybean, or canola)

Salsa All’Arrabbiata, for serving or your favorite sauce

Pour 5½ cups water into a medium heavy-gauge saucepan or pot and stir in the rice, butter, and salt. Heat to boiling over medium heat; reduce the heat to low. Simmer briskly, uncovered and without stirring, until the rice has absorbed the water, about 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the eggs, rice flour, parsley, and Parmigiano.

Line a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Transfer the cooked rice to the parchment-lined dish, smoothing to make level. Bring the rice to room temperature.  (To finish the recipe the next day, cover the rice with parchment paper and the baking dish with plastic wrap; refrigerate. Bring the rice to room temperature before continuing with  the recipe.)

Assemble and fry the arancini:

Using a sharp knife dipped in cold water, score and cut the rice cake into 16 equal pieces. Place one portion of rice in your hand and shape it into a cone; fill with 3 cubes of mozzarella. Close the rice over the cheese and squeeze to shape it into a ball. Place on parchment paper. Repeat until all the arancini are formed.

Place two large bowls on a work surface. Place the eggs in one and the breadcrumbs in the other. Immerse a rice ball in the egg; move it to the bowl of breadcrumbs and dredge until well coated. Place the breaded ball on the parchment paper. Repeat until all the rice balls are breaded.

Pour the oil into a small electric fryer (amount specified by fryer model) or a heavy-gauge pot, ensuring that the oil reaches no higher than 3 inches from the top of the pot. Preheat the oil to 350°F.

Carefully transfer 3 or 4 of the balls into the hot oil, being careful not to crowd them. Fry until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Test one to ensure doneness, adjusting frying time as needed. Proceed with the remainder. Blot the fried arancini on paper toweling.

Place on a platter and serve with spicy salsa all’arrabbiata sauce or your favorite red sauce.


When: June 7 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Read It & Eat!, 2142 N Halsted Street Chicago, IL

For more information:  (773) 661-6158;

All Photo credit Kayleigh Jankowski.




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