“Risotto is the king of the first courses in Venice due to the rice mills operating in the Veneto from the end of the 15th century,” says Sara Cossiga, sommelier and gourmet tour organizer (www.venicevenetogourmet.com). The stock should be added slowly to let the rice absorb it little by little.
3 cups Vialone Nano or other risotto rice
2 ounces bacon, minced
1 onion, minced
2 1/2 pounds shelled fresh peas, reserve the pods
1/2 pound green asparagus
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons grated parmesan
Pinch of parsley
1 bay leaf
1 quart vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the pea pods and bay leaf in a pot, add 1/2 quart salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Discard the pods and keep the broth warm.
Fill another pot with one quart salted water, bring to a boil, and add both the peas and the asparagus. Simmer for several minutes, drain the vegetables, and dice the asparagus.
Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium pot and add the onion and bacon. Stir until golden, about ten minutes. Add the asparagus and peas. Stir for five more minutes, then add the rice and stir to coat well. When the rice is translucent, pour one big spoonful of the peapod broth into the pan and stir constantly until the broth has been absorbed, then add more broth. Continue for about 18 minutes.
When the risotto is tender it should look soupy but not watery. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, stir in the parmesan cheese and the remaining butter, and allow to rest for two minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Servings: Serves four
Sea Bass in Green Sauce
“Fresh caught sea bass is a delicacy in Venice and is served here with a sauce that appeared in a 14th-century cookbook written in Venetian,” according to Sara Cossiga, sommelier and gourmet tour organizer (www.venicevenetogourmet.com). “The vinegar, so important for food preparation, smoothes the fishy taste of the anchovies, while the parsley adds a fresh scent and natural color,” says Cossiga.
2 pounds fresh sea bass
2 quarts water
1 celery stalk
1 garlic clove
2 thyme twigs
1 dry bay leaf
4-5 parsley stems
5-6 black peppercorns
1 glass dry white wine
1 1/2 ounces parsley leaves
1 1/2 ounces capers
1/2 garlic clove
3 anchovies, salt-packed
1 egg, boiled
Handful white soft part of bread soaked in white vinegar, then squeezed
Pinch salt, pepper to taste
Clean the fish, gently rub off the scales, and rinse thoroughly in running water. Put all the ingredients except the pepper and wine into a big pot. Bring to a boil, then skim it, and let boil for 15 minutes, adding the pepper and the wine. Let simmer for 30 more minutes, then turn off the heat and remove the fish.
Place the sea bass on a large plate, remove the head, the tail, and the backbone. To serve, spoon some green sauce on one side of each serving plate, then add the sea bass. You can filter the broth, freeze it, and keep it for a seafood risotto, just remember to add salt when you use it.
Rub the salt from the anchovies and wash in running water. Remove the backbone and the tail, then separate the fillets. Chop anchovies into pieces and set aside. Put all the ingredients in a mixer with the bread and chopped anchovies and mix at high speed, while slowly adding the olive oil until the sauce is creamy and smooth. Add pepper and salt, if needed.
Servings: Serves four
Named for their yellow color (zalo in Venetian, giallo in Italian) these cookies are made using corn flour and used to be sold door-to-door, according to Sally Spector, author of Venice and Food. “Cookies are some of the best kept secrets in Venice,” says Spector.
9 ounces butter
9 ounces sugar
Pinch of salt
12 ounces white flour
12 ounces yellow corn flour
9 ounces raisins, soaked in tepid water for a few minutes to soften
Preheat oven to 350ºF (176ºC). Cream together butter, sugar, and salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then stir in flour and raisins. The dough should have a solid, uniform consistency. Form the zaleti by hand: The traditional cookie is about three inches long and tapered at both ends, but it can be made smaller or larger according to personal preference. Bake on greased cookie sheets for about 15 minutes. Zaleti are sometimes lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar after baking, while still warm.
Servings: Makes about 36 cookies
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