Mushroom Risotto

This is probably the most voluptuous risotto I’ve ever made.  Thick with both cultivated and wild mushrooms, enriched with cognac, beef stock, and marscapone cheese, it’s pretty heady stuff.   Pair it with an earthy pinot noir and a crackling fire.

I used a combination of portobello and cremini, plus a package of mixed dried wild mushrooms.  If you were to use all white button mushrooms you wouldn’t get nearly the depth of flavor, so, tempting as it is to grab those pre-cleaned and sliced packages, force yourself to experiment with other varieties.  I have a slightly unorthodox method of cooking mushrooms, I saute them in a hot dry cast iron pan.  This method is so great because it turns the mushrooms a rich brown, concentrates their flavor, and brings out their ‘meaty’ texture.

One note — even though this is quite a sensual dish, it might not be appropriate for a first date.  For one thing, you’ll be spending the 30 minutes or so before dinner tethered to the stove, and not available to tend to your new friend.  And second, after 30 minutes of ladling, stirring, and taking in the rich scents of this luscious risotto, you might be a tad ‘dewy’, and focused on only one thing — devouring it.  Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but probably not ideal for a first date.  Other than that, this is the perfect romantic dinner for 2.

What You Will Need

  • 1 portobello mushroom
  • 6 oz cremini mushrooms (about a pint)
  • 1/2 oz package of dried wild mushrooms, any variety you like
  • 26 oz container of beef stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 or 3 large shallots, peeled thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup cognac
  • a handful of fresh thyme
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
  • 1/3 cup marscapone cheese
  • more fresh thyme for garnish

Instructions

  1. Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with warm water, according to the package instructions. When they have reconstituted, drain them and give them a rough chop Set aside.
  2. Clean your fresh mushrooms with a damp towel, or, if they are very dirty, give them a quick shower. Pat them dry and then trim and slice them.
  3. Put the fresh mushrooms in a dry saute pan and cook them over medium heat until they start to release their moisture and darken. Stir often so they don’t stick. When the mushrooms are cooked through, turn off the heat and set aside.
  4. Put the beef stock and the water in a saucepan and heat to just under a simmer on the stove. I like to add a few thyme sprigs so they will infuse flavor into the stock as it heats.
  5. In a heavy stockpot, melt the butter and oil and saute the shallot and garlic for about 5 minutes over medium low heat, do not brown them. Add the rice and stir to coat. Saute another minute or so, stirring constantly.
  6. Add the cognac to the pan and stir until it is absorbed. You should hear a nice sizzling sound when it hits the pan. If you don’t, your heat is too low.
  7. Add the reconstituted dried mushrooms and HALF of the fresh mushrooms to the pan, along with at least a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
  8. Now you are ready to start adding the stock, ladle by ladle, to the pan. Add 1 or 2 ladles (about 1/3 cup) at a time to the rice and stir until it is absorbed. Keep adding the stock, stirring until it is absorbed before you ladle in the next addition. The whole process is going to take about 30 minutes.
  9. After about 20 minutes, start tasting the rice. When it is done it will be tender but still somewhat firm. You may not need all the stock. I like to end with a ladle of stock so the risotto has a somewhat loose consistency before I add the cheese.
  10. When the rice is done, add in the squeeze of lemon juice, and the cheeses and stir well. Taste again to adjust the seasonings. I like to sprinkle in more thyme at this point.
  11. Plate the risotto right away, and top with the remaining fresh mushrooms and more fresh thyme.

Notes

The secret to a successful risotto is keeping the stock and the pan at the right temperature. The pot should be gently simmering at all times. If you add a ladle of stock to the pan and it doesn’t simmer instantly, your stock or your pot is not hot enough. You don’t want a furious boil, just a constant simmer.
The marscapone will make the risotto extra creamy, but you can leave it out if you like.

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This recipe is just perfect as is, but I know that many of you will want to make it a little differently, for your own reasons.  Here’s what I suggest…if you want to make this vegetarian, go with a mushroom broth rather than a vegetable broth, or a combination of the two, you’ll get better flavor.  You can also strain the water that the dried mushrooms soak in and use that as part of your broth.  If you want to use chicken broth in place of beef, I might substitute dry sherry, vermouth, or dry white wine for the cognac.  You can leave out the marscapone if you like, and maybe add a little extra Parmesan.  In any case, don’t leave out the fresh thyme.

Homemade Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce

I am so excited about this recipe! Lately I have been surviving on simple meals since the time I have in my kitchen is limited right now. This homemade tomato basil pasta sauce recipe is really quick and easy. Making pasta sauce at home has always intimidated me. I finally decided to just TRY IT and loved, loved, loved how it turned out! I used fresh tomatoes and basil, some olive oil, garlic and some salt and pepper. This recipe is so simple, yet so flavorful! By making your own pasta sauce, you control the amount of sodium and what flavors you want. You should use is within 48 hours since it is not canned and does not contain any preservatives. I think it has the best flavor before then, too. I love heating some up and serving over angel hair noodles for a simple, light pasta dish.
Homemade Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce
 
Save Print
Prep time
10 mins
Cook time
12 mins
Total
22 mins
 
Type: Sauce
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 5 tomatoes, diced (or 14oz can crushed tomatoes)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 6 basil leaves, chopped
Instructions
  1. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and garlic to a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the tomatoes to a blender and pulse a few times (you can make it more or less chunky by how many times you pulse).
  3. Transfer the tomatoes to the saucepan and add the sugar, salt and pepper.
  4. Cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the chopped basil and remaining olive oil just before serving.
  6. Store for up to 2 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Makes ~2 cups
    3.2.2124

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TOMATO BASIL SOUP {CAFE ZUPAS COPYCAT RECIPE!}

If you haven’t ordered the Tomato Basil Soup from Cafe Zupas, you’re seriously missing out! It’s so much more than just tomato soup. It’s got a light texture and the flavor has so much depth. It’s so good I’ll even eat it in the middle of summer. When it’s 100+ degrees outside. And I’m pregnant. That should tell you just how amazing it is! 
I scoured the internet trying to find a recipe that sounded similar and failed. Then I came across another Zupas copycat recipe, but it needed a lot of work- I read it and had so many questions! (That and it made about 32 gallons of soup!) So I got to work and came up with this recipe, which is a much easier and smaller version. I hope you’ll try it- serve it with grilled cheese on a cool Fall day. Yum.
Tomato Basil Soup {Cafe Zupas Copycat Version}
Adapted from It’s The Life’s Recipe here
  • 1 1/4 cup Pesto sauce {see recipe below if you want to make your own. Costco’s is delish!}
  • 5 1/2 cups diced/ stewed tomatoes – three 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup diced onion
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp sugar (cuts down on acidity)
  • 1 1/3 cup cream or 1 12-oz can evaporated milk
My garden is exploding with tomatoes, so I used fresh. This is not a fast way to make this soup, however! If you do want to use fresh, you’ll need to peel and slice them properly. I show you how to do this step-by-step here, when I give my marinara sauce recipe. 
Pesto Sauce Recipe~ blend together until smooth:
  • 2/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
Directions: 
Set crockpot on high so that it can begin warming up while you assemble the soup. If you don’t want to use a crockpot, feel free to use a saucepan instead. 
Wash and slice vegetables. 
In a frying pan (or just use the saucepan if you’re not using a crockpot) melt butter over medium-high heat. 
Add in onion and celery. Cook until vegetables soften, about 5-8 minutes. 
Transfer to the crockpot and add in all remaining ingredients, except the cream. At this point the soup doesn’t look very pretty. Don’t worry- it will cook down and all the veggies will meld together. Soon your house will smell amazing! 
Crockpot: Cook on high 6-7 hours total
Saucepan on stove: Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low. Simmer for about 2 hours total. 
After soup has cooked for most of the time, I then use an immersion blender to get rid of the remaining chunks of vegetables. Cafe Zupas’ soup is served with some pieces of veggies, but I prefer to blend mine smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can transfer the soup a few cups at a time to your regular blender. I’ve done this before- it’s not as daunting as it sounds! 
After it’s smooth, return to pot and cook for the remaining time~ I generally blend it about an hour before serving. Just before serving add the cream or milk. 
Top with fresh Parmesan cheese and ENJOY!

Soup doesn’t look very pretty at this point, huh?! Don’t worry…

Blend it until smooth and it turns a lovely reddish orange color. 

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