Risotto with Italian Blue Goat Cheese and Xocopili Chocolate
We saved one of our best meals for last on our 2018 Italian trip. On our final night in Orta San Giulio, we enjoyed a stupendous risotto made with blue goat cheese, candied walnuts and shaved Xocopili chocolate (Risotto all’erborinato di capra della Val Vigezzo, cioccolato Xocopili e noci caramellate). Wow! That was that good risotto!
We stayed at the incredible Bed & Breakfast Al Dom on the shores of Orta San Giulio with a private garden at the edge of the lake and views across to the L’Osola del Silenzio (Island of Silence). Below is our little Al Dom “picnic area.”
The town had some amazing dining spots including two Michelin Star restaurants. But I cannot imagine a dish better than the one we experienced at La Motta Restaurant & Bistrot (below photo from their website).
Our waiter explained that the “all’erborinato di capra della Val Vigezzo” is an Italian blue goat cheese from the Piedmont region. That cheese was sweet and creamy and nothing like we had ever tasted.
Returning home, I learned that Xocopili chocolate is “savory chocolate pearls, featuring the strong flavor of 72% Venezuelan cocoa infused with a subtle mix of chile, curry, espelette pepper and salt” which is shaved over the top of the risotto just before serving.
I asked for the risotto recipe, but only received a shrug in return, so this is my attempt at recreating this phenomenal risotto from La Motta Ristorante. Italian menus are vast, starting with the “antipasti,” followed by the “primi” (pastas), then the “secondi” (meat and fish), “contorini” (vegetables), and finally “dolci” (dessert). This risotto was in the “primi” portion of the menu at La Motta, but was so rich we did not have room for anything from the “secondi” portion as we had started with an “antipasti” and we needed to save room for the “dolci!” Long story short, you may want to serve it as a starter.
First, of course, we had to find the cheese and the chocolate. Just as we were about to resort to mail order, Tom stopped by our local Italian market (big shout out to Roma Italian Deli & Grocery) to pick up some Carnaroli rice, and they had the blue goat cheese too! A taste test revealed that the Italian blue goat cheese tasted similar to Dolce Gorgonzola which is also a milder, sweet Italian blue cheese but made with cow’s milk. The Dolce Gorgonzola may be easier to find in the market and would be an acceptable substitute.
We did find the Xocopili chocolate online, but it was $47! I decided to go with Lindt Dark Chocolate infused with spicy red chili.
As far as which risotto rice to use, Arborio is the most widely available risotto rice in the U.S., but I like Carnaroli which, according to Fine Cooking, “is the preferred risotto rice in most regions in Italy except the Veneto” and “said to produce the creamiest risotto.” So when in Rome (or Orta San Giulio … or Pasadena), Carnaroli it is!
If you haven’t made risotto before, it is best to warm the broth first. Otherwise, you are adding cold to something hot, and that slows everything down. This recipe takes about 45 minutes to make, and you really do need to stir it while it is cooking so that the rice rubs against each other generating starch which makes the risotto creamy. And, you need to add the broth one cup at a time, again to stimulate the rice to release starch, adding the broth all at once is just boiling rice (in my opinion). Don’t forget, you have the rest of that bottle of white wine to keep you busy while you stir!
2 T. butter
2 shallots, diced
1 c. Carnaroli rice
1 c. dry white wine (at room temperature)
4 c. chicken stock
6 oz. Italian Blue Goat Cheese or Dolce gorgonzola (at room temperature)
16 toasted or candied walnut halves (about 4-5 halves per serving)
2 squares Lindt Dark Chocolate infused with spicy red chili (1/2 square shaved chocolate per serving)
4 slices prosciutto, fried until crispy for garnish (optional)
Bring the broth to a simmer in a small pan and keep warm over low heat. In a large sauté pan over medium/medium-high heat, melt the butter and sauté the shallots until just softened and translucent. Add the rice, stirring to coat with the butter and then pressing into a single layer and continue to sauté until slightly crunchy and translucent, do not over-cook.
Add the wine and stir until just absorbed. Add the broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring until just absorbed before adding the next cup. Repeat this process until the liquid is gone. If the rice is not al dente, add an additional cup of broth or wine. If you don’t have either, add water.
Remove from heat. Stir in the cheese until melted. Spoon into individual serving bowls. Add 4-5 walnut halves to each serving and sprinkle with ½ square shaved chocolate per bowl just before serving. Top with fried prosciutto (optional).