risotto al barolo + green crostini

Notorious egos and generally making a spectacle of oneself kinda bore me, so it’s little surprise that I don’t share many New Yorkers enthusiasm for the orange clog man himself, Mario Batali. Sure, I’ve watched his Food Network show dozens of time and even found myself humming along to his opening music, yet all of this brouhaha around Del Posto as the ultimate embodiment of foodie excess has nauseated me. Even if I had the spare change for a $90 rack of lamb, I’d never spend it there, or on that, no matter how great those party-favor breadcrumbs are. So, it surprises me as much as it may you that I’ve eaten there not once, but twice in the last month, and loved every last bite of it.

risotto al barolo, i mean, sangiovese

Of course, I am not eating at the restaurant proper, but one of the best kept secrets on 10th Avenue — the Enoteca inside. Forty-one dollars buys you four courses, and an extra nineteen buy you a sommelier chosen wine pairing for each course. (Try not to groan when they bring you a Bastianich wine. I swear, it’s very good.) The food is some of the best Italian I’ve had in this city, comparable only to Al Di La in Park Slope, and it impressed both my parents when we went for their anniversary and Alex’s family, for his father’s birthday. I’ve tried the veal ravioli with cauliflower, gnocchi Bolognese, pork marsala and even a teeny, tiny whole chicken–no eggplant parmesan or meatballs as far as the eye can see. I may be tired of this guy’s overexposure, but the food goes a long way towards making up for it.


Suddenly, the Batali name is not just associated in my mind with unscheduled drop-ins and egregious consumption, but good, no great food. Thus, when Julia Moskin (we love her here, by the way — remember this?) spent this Wednesday trying to cure us of this ridiculous notion that one should only cook with expensive wine–bravo!–and ended it on a Batali note, I knew it would be just matter of days before I made his risotto al Barolo, but uh, with some $10 sangiovese, and only in the double-digits because we wanted to drink it, too. Be not turned back by its muddy, beige color and the low-quality of these snapshots (hey, we were trying to get to the eating!), it’s actually a lovely, subtle pink and utterly delicious. We had it with some green and white asparagus, a mixed salad and yet another Batali inspiration–green crostini, though taken in an entirely different direction by me. His recipes are unfussy and, thus far, absolutely perfect and I suspect I’ll be using them again and again.

green crostini

Anyway, that I’ve had my great confessional, this is probably a good time to admit that I’ve also been coveting his both his risotto pot and grill pan. I think they’re absolutely stunning. Also, those wooden spoons. Not the Crocs, though. A girl’s gotta draw the line somewhere. Fortunately for us, though, it’s after the risotto.

Risotto al Barolo
Adapted from Mario Batali

Yield: 6 to 8 first-course servings.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup Barolo or other dry red wine
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade, or low-sodium, canned
3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, more for serving.

1. In a wide, deep skillet, heat oil until very hot but not smoking. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Do not brown; reduce heat as needed. Add rice and stir with a wooden spoon until opaque and slightly toasted.

2. Meanwhile, heat the stock in a saucepan and keep it just below a simmer. Add wine and a ladleful of hot stock and cook, stirring often, until liquid is absorbed. Continue stirring and adding hot stock a ladleful at a time, always waiting until liquid is almost completely absorbed before adding more. Cook until rice is tender and creamy but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Toward the end of cooking time, rice will quickly soften, so stir constantly and taste often. Turn off heat and stir in butter. Stir in cheese and serve with additional Parmesan.

Green Crostini
Sort of wildly interpreted from Mario Batali

Note: We updated this recipe in April 2009.

1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 cup large green pitted olives
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 large slices of crusty bread

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a food processor, process the garlic, olives, capers, artichoke hearts and olive oil to a coarse paste.
2. Toast the bread on the oven rack for 6 minutes, or until crisp and browned. Spread the olive paste thickly over the toasts and serve.

Do ahead: The olive paste can be refrigerated for 2 days. Let return to room temperature before using.

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34 comments on risotto al barolo + green crostini

  1. I must admit to loving Mario Batali, if only because he strikes me as one of the few more “serious” chefs on food network – he knows his stuff! I do like hearing the history of the cuisine and other etc. knowledge he has to offer. He might have a high ego, but it always seems that at least he takes his food seriously.

    This risotto looks very interesting.The color definitely has me intruiged. I also like the simplicity of the recipe!! And how do you find the white asparagus? I’ve seen it around – does it taste any different?

  2. deb

    He certainly does know his stuff. Unfortunately, all he ever seems to be making on his show are pasta dishes, from dried pasta no less, so I feel like there’s little for me to learn there. In addition, they’ve shuttered him into that mid-day slot whereby one could go months before seeing his show.

    I’ve only just recently discovered white asparagus, which my mother says was always such a delicacy when she grew up, she’s surprised people don’t get more excited about it here. I’d say the flavor is a little milder–less loudly grassy–than the green stuff. It’s a bit more finicky to cook. You have to peel it completely, and it breaks easily when you do, and then boil it for at least twice as long, about 8 to 10 minutes. But, I like it a lot, and soon, when I get back to making an aoili, I want to pair it with that, as we had it at the tapas place near us.

  3. Mmm this looks wonderful. I’ve been meaning to try some type of risotto because I’ve never had any. This recipe sounds delicious! But I dare say, the bread looks the best. Then again, in desperate times I will be the girl holding the “will work for bread” sign.

  4. Although it’s incredibly petty, I can’t get on board with Mario Batali’s food because, well, he, uh, sort of repulses me. I just cannot watch the man cook. It’s too bad because I’m sure his recipes are wonderful.

  5. This post makes me want to jump on a plane headed for NY/Enoteca!
    I too used to find him (Mario B.), not repulsive per se, but a bit off putting – but when I saw the interview he did for one of the other ‘superstar’ chefs on food network, I changed my mind… he came off as a really nice person.

  6. That all looks so yum! But, I love risotto and will cave into it at any time. I believe that this is the first time I’ve seen a risotto recipe without garlic, I am very intrigued by that.

    I haven’t had white asparagus either but I just recently saw it in one of the markets close by, I think it will go on the shopping list. Along with the Barolo.

    And, lastly, I’m so glad that you didn’t concede to the crocs. I cringe at the thought of those shoes.

  7. deb

    Jenn — Thank you! It was the last slices of the Italian bread I made a few weeks ago, which means it’s time for me to try a new one. Alex votes for ciabatta, but mostly because he saw Giada chopping some this morning in a low-cut blouse. Yawn.

    Randomly — Yes, I agree. Still, you don’t need to watch him cook to make his recipes. That said, risotto al barolo is an old dish, one that he did not invent. There are countless recipes for it on the internet. So you can still make it!

    Jane — Enoteca is the best Italian restaurant in Manhattan, I think. Or way up there. I hope you try it if you’re ever here!

    Jenifer — No, no Crocs… except… well… I mean, have you seen these? They’re so cute. Especially in celery/white. Fear not, I’m not getting them, but mostly just because they’re out of my size. I am so busted.

  8. Oh thanks for the tip, will add Enoteca to my must-visit list, good for after gallery hopping in the evening.
    The crositini spread looks good, do you process the artichokes in the paste too? Just asking, b/c the directions didn’t say.

  9. gretchen

    My husband and I went to Enoteca last weekend for our wedding anniversary and were completely delighted. The grilled octopus was sensational, both pasta dishes were luxurious, and the atmosphere was entirely lovely. And it was such a treat to 1) be able to make a reservation the morning of, and 2) see the bill! It’s an amazing place.

  10. deb

    Lisa — No, but I’d like to very soon. I love the tangly, purple strands!

    Mercedes — D’oh. Yes, you do. I’ll fix the recipe right now.

    Gretchen — Yay, another vote for it. They actually don’t take reservations in advance, so its hard to plan a few days ahead, but if when we’ve called before noon and even after and haven’t had any trouble getting our first or second choice. And it’s so relaxing not to worry about how things will add up!

  11. Hey, don’t knock the crocs. I have two pair, the orange with holes( and I bought them years ago) and a purple pair that are holeless. They are so comfortable if you’re on your feet all day. I love the thongs and those cute wedges you linked too.

  12. I share the whole love/hate thing with Mario Batali, but whatever you think of him personally, or whatever you glean by reading HEAT (a wonderful read, by the way), the man can cook. I don’t live in NYC and don’t get there often enough to put his restaurants on my to-do list, but if he inspires simple recipes like these, well, I can put up with the rest.

  13. Max

    I made an almost identical meal to you on Friday. The exact same risotto recipe (I’d never cooked risotto before, will definitely do it again), which I thought was delicious. For bread, I used this Wolfgang Puck suggestion ( for roasted garlic spread, which I mixed with olive oil and topped with mozzarella cheese to make the best garlic bread I’d ever had.

    I absolutely recommend this risotto recipe.

  14. I’ve only seen his show once or twice, and I don’t care for it in general, but I think he seems like a nice down-to-earth guy and that’s a nice change. (This from a Martha devotee. Ahem.)

    You have to PEEL white asparagus? I had no idea. I haven’t been, but I’ve been loving it that last several months. Am I going to die now? (Ha)

  15. EJ

    Not that Mario Batali at all needs me to stick up for him, but I actually had a tremendously charming encounter with him over Christmas. He was at Stone House Bakery in Leland, Michigan (yes, home to the famous gift bread crumbs) having a meal with his family while I was buying pesto hummus and an epi loaf. My sister and I both recognized the crocs at the same time and were incredibly confused– small-town northwestern Michigan isn’t exactly known for celebrity sightings. After he left the owner told us that he hangs out there all the time and just did a bunch of private dinners to benefit local charities. Oh, and his manner of holiday greeting was to grin and holler “Merry Whatever and Happy Whatsitsdoodle!” Nice way to sidestep the culture wars, no?

  16. One of my favorite recipes of all time is a butternut squash dish, cooked and mashed with mascarpone, parmesan, eggs, and sage, then baked until set. It’s the most lovely stuff imaginable. I don’t even have the real recipe (assuming it’s published somewhere), just the notes I scribbled down while I was watching Food Network late, late at night lo, these many years ago. Fabulous stuff.

  17. anna

    be wary of his cookware – i have the dutch oven and while it is a nice piece of kitchen eye-candy, it heats very unevenly.

  18. M

    Somebody may have already asked this in the above 20 comments… did you watch any of the Chefographies last week? I ended up liking all of them so much more after watching those, even Sandy Lee!

  19. Yvo

    *swoon* I despite Batali and his show and his pompous ways but you can’t deny good food. Oh well. I guess I shall have to suck it up and visit. Thanks. The food looks delicious.

    PS I read back into what I’ve missed while I was gone and moan, I want that chocolate cake…

  20. Nothing wrong with your pictures as far as I am concerned. I really like the look of your blog, your stories and your recipes! Yours is one foodblog I read regularly!

  21. I must say I enjoy Batali–on TV–if only for being one of the few remaining real chefs on the Food Network. However, many congratulations for bastardizing his risotto with the good advice given by Ms. Moskin. But unlike you, I can’t say which wine works better since I haven’t had the “real” thing! (yikes, that sounds suggestive… still, was it good??)

  22. We had a seriously crap-tactular meal at Del Posto — the dining room, not the Enoteca — last week (which is on the blog, if you care to feel our pain more directly). The lone highlight of the meal was a screamingly delicious cheese risotto, sans Barolo. But, overall, “sucked” would not be too strong an adjective. Next time back to Babbo for us.

  23. deb

    anna — Ooh, good to know. I’m drawn to the shape of that risotto pan. It seems perfect for so many sauces and smaller dishes. Sigh.

    Honeybee — Thank you.

    Cathy — No, I hear you. I *once* found a Barolo for like $25 and loved it. I’ve never seen it again. Barolos are almost never less than $50. It’s nuts. Especially when my unpracticed palate loves a $9 Montepulciano almost as much. I mean, mostly as much.

    Mara — I didn’t take pictures but my friend Joc did. I did steal her camera a few times and took some of the available-light pictures, like the cupcakes, flowers and some ceremony pics.

  24. Eve

    My daughter loves the red wine risotto–especially with bright green peas in it! Purple and green food is hilarious to a 3 year old.

  25. Svetlana

    Just wanted to chime in that I am with you on his pots and pans. I am coveting them, but I do have a few of his flat end spoons, and those are absolutely brilliant. They are wooden spoons but you can also use them to scrape off all that wonderful fond. Kudos to him for thinking of that.

  26. leigh

    As a risotto newbie, I’m working my way through your recipes. Just made this one, but added some prosciutto a few minutes after the onions, some spinach at the very end, and substituted goat cheese for parmesan. Didn’t turn that pretty pink color, but sure does taste good! If repeating, I’d probably cook the prosciutto separate first to make it more crispy. Thanks for always posting things that are inspiring in a flexible way!