Courgette, Basil and Black Olives Vegan Risotto by Danilo Cortellini
320g Carnaroli ‘Risotto’ rice
4 green courgettes
1 onion (chopped)
1 litre of vegetable stock
100ml dry white wine
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 small bunch of fresh basil
8 courgettes flower to garnish (optional)
100g of taggiasca pitted olives
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Start by preparing the courgetti puree. This will help with the creaminess of the risotto. Sweat half of the chopped onion in a casserole pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil. When golden, add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Now add 3 of the courgettes thinly sliced, season with salt and pepper and cook on a medium heat until soft (about 6/7 minutes). Add at least 15 leaves of basil and blend well straight away with a mixer or hand blender. Set aside and let it cool slightly.
For the risotto:
Gently fry the chopped onion in a small casserole dish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt for about 6/7 minutes on low heat until golden and a little translucent.
In a large casserole dish, start to dry toast the rice on a low heat with a pinch of salt, without adding oil or fat. This method allows the heat to reach the core of each rice grain, resulting in a more uniform al dente rice. Keep stirring the rice occasionally, so the rice does not catch on the bottom of the pan or burn. When the rice is very hot, pour the wine in. Let the alcohol evaporate for a few seconds, set the cooking time to 15/17 minutes (accordingly to the packet instructions) and add the simmering stock a ladle at a time, little by little. Remember, the risotto needs to always have a good simmer during the cooking time. Gently stir the rice every now and then, and make sure the rice is always covered with stock.
While the risotto cooks, thinly slice the courgette left, let it sit with a pinch of salt for a couple of minutes and then pat dry the natural water from it. Shallow fry in a pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil until brownish and crispy in spots. Set aside.
If you are lucky enough to get a hold of courgette flowers, rinse them gently and remove the pistils inside, then shallow fry it as the courgette very quickly for 1 minute.
When halfway through the cooking time, add the cooked onion and then start to add the courgette and basil puree gradually.
Once the time is up, taste the risotto and if you’re happy with the texture remove it from the heat. If you want the rice a little bit softer, cook for another minute.
This step is called “mantecatura” to make the risotto creamier increasing its natural ooziness with the right gesture and movements. Add 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and stir to incorporate extra air until the risotto is nice and creamy. At this stage I like to add a few drops of lemon juice and if the risotto dries up, you can still add a little bit of hot stock. Season to taste.
Plate the hot risotto straight away. Scatter over the courgette slice and a few taggiasca olives for each plate. Garnish with the optional flowers and basil leaves and finish with lemon zest for extra aroma.