Over lunch yesterday, I came across a new Italian expression, Risotto All’Onda. At the time, I was serving a classic Marcella Hazan rice soup, or rather a minestra which, to be truthful, was more like a wet risotto. A soup or a wet risotto, I commented, knowing that this distinction is not particularly relevant to those from the Veneto region in Italy. Alberto, a visitor from Lombardy in Italy, then related the story of his prozia, or great-aunt, who uses her brodo (stock) rather liberally when making risotto, earning the comment ‘all’onda!!!’ in a disparaging way from her husband, who had a preference for a drier risotto. Drier risotto is the preferred style in Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna. It has a stickier texture and can be plated rather than served in a bowl. Alberto’s family continues to describe a wet risotto in this way, to recall their late prozio’s reaction to wet risotto, risotto’all’onda!!
As it turns out, risotto all’ onda is a common enough term for Venetian style risotto, ‘all’onda‘ meaning that the finished product should ripple like the ocean current, yet maintain its classically creamy consistency. It should be liquid enough to make it pourable. Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice are the preferred varieties for a wet style risotto: also using smaller pan when cooking helps to maintain the moisture.
The following recipe is an adaptation of Marcella Hazan’s Minestra di Sedano e Riso or rice and celery soup, from the Classic Italian Cookbook, 1980. I have replaced the celery with zucchini, given the continuing summer glut. The method of this soup is rather interesting, with half the zucchini pureed, adding a lovelygreen cremoso texture to this minestra/soup/risotto.
Minestra di Zucchini e Riso- Zucchini and Rice Soup.
2-3 small zucchini, diced
6 tablespoons EV Olive Oil
half small onion, finely chopped
25 g butter
200g rice, preferably Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
500 ml of stock or one stock cube dissolved in the same quantity of water
3 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley.
Wash the zucchini, finely dice,. Put the zucchini, olive oil and salt in a heavy base saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a steady simmer, cover, and cook until the zucchini is tender. Turn off the heat.
Put the chopped onion in a heavy based saucepan with the butter and saute over medium heat until pale gold but not browned.
Add half the zucchini to the saucepan with the onion, using a slotted spoon. Saute for two or three minutes, stirring, the add the rice and stir it until well coated. Add all the broth.
Puree the rest of the zucchini, including all its cooking liquid, with a stick blender. Add this puree to the saucepan containing the rice.
Bring to a steady simmer, cover, and cook until the rice is tender but firm to the bite, around 15- 20 minutes. Watch and check that it doesn’t catch as some rice absorbs stock too quickly- you may need to add a little more to make it ‘all’onda’.
Stir in the grated cheese, turn off the heat, add the parsley and mix. Serve at once! This dish should be eaten immediately before it turns too soft. Make it only just before you are ready to eat!
I’m with Great Aunt Carla when it comes to risotto- I love it ‘all’onda’, nice and wet, rippling with little currents from the sea of broth.
When Leah nominated Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook for this month’s Cookbook Guru title, I was in two minds. Don’t get me wrong. I went through a Marcella Hazan stage from the late 80s and I believe she has influenced my cooking profoundly. I was studying Italian at the time and her discussion of things like the importance of ‘soffritto’ and ‘salt’ changed my cooking style. At the time, Marcella became my cooking mentor,- I loved the sound of the Italian titles; the two obsessions in my life, Italian language and cooking, complemented each other so well.
In those days I owned two other cookbooks written by Marcella. They preceded her The Classic Italian Cookbook which I don’t enjoy as much. So I am sure you won’t mind if I share my favourite soup recipe, taken from her earlier work. This recipe is a family favourite: we have adapted it along the way but it is still close enough to the original. Marcella, I recall, flavours the oil with whole garlic cloves and then discards them. I chop it and keep it all- it flavours the stock beautifully. It has become our ‘chicken soup’, a pick me up. I have attempted to list quantities here: normally it’s a handful of this, a bunch of that and a couple of cups of beans. The beauty of the soup relies on fresh ingredients and it costs almost nothing to make. The costly items are the Parmigiano cheese and good quality oil.
Zuppa di Bietola e Fagioli Bianchi.
(or less romantically, Silverbeet and White Bean Soup)
one small branch of fresh rosemary, stripped, chopped.
5 Tbles EV olive oil
4 cloves garlic or more, finely chopped.
6 fillets anchovies
Make a soffritto with these ingredients in a large pot. Melt the anchovies down in the oil, stirring well, being careful not to over colour the garlic.
one large bunch silverbeet
500 gr cooked cannellini /great northern beans ( from 300 dried)
two small handfuls of macaroni/digitali/small shaped pasta
grana padano/reggiano parmigiano cheese
best EV olive oil for serving.
Wash and trim the silver beet. Finely slice, including the stems, and add to the soffritto, stir around and coat with oil till they wilt.
Add beans. Add enough water to barely cover ingredients. Cook on a steady heat for around 5 minutes. Add pasta, some salt, and cook until the pasta is al dente.
Adjust salt, stir some grated parmigiano through the soup. Serve with a little stream of fine oil and extra parmigiano.
This is a piatto unico, a one course meal, with good bread. Serves 4-6.
Marcella Hazan, who passed away on September 29, was my cooking muse. I feel that I knew her well. She fulfilled the role of Italian aunt, she was my Zia from Venice and Florida.Her voice was often bossy but sensible. In the late 1980’s, I owned two small cookbooks by Marcella, all text, no glossy pictures, with recipe titles and indexing in Italian before English (unlike her modern editions). Some of my favourite recipes came from these two volumes and they have become part of my extended family‘s repertoire too. Young chef Daisy can smell Zuppa di bietola e fagioli bianchi as soon as she walks in the door. Marcella not only taught me how to cook down to earth Italian food, but also my first Italian words, soffrito and battuto. No Ciao bella and Va bene for me– it was always about the cooking. From this little beginning, came a degree in Italian, some translating, lots of travelling to Italy, and Italian friends. Marcella completely changed my life. Although sadly I no longer own the modest dark green and maroon cookbooks, my versions of her recipes live on.
Marcella advised, in a forthright manner, on the importance of using salt, so I dedicate my little Italian salt container to the memory of Marcella.