Risotto with Pear, Grana Padano and Balsamic Vinegar

When I worked as the Executive Chef of Felidia in New York City, the most popular dish was the “Cacio e Pere,” or Pear and Pecorino Ravioli.  It was a delicate pasta dish with a lively blend of shredded ripe pear, 3-6 month aged Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano, and mascarpone. 

At home and during cooking demonstrations, I prefer to use this flavor combination in a risotto dish.  If you wish to serve a sophisticated restaurant dish, a drizzle of traditional balsamic vinegar and freshly cut celery and celery leaves are added at the end. You can also choose to use a balsamic vinegar or reduction.

Servings: 6


  • 8 cups of vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup sliced leeks, white and pale green parts only (washed; save the rest for a future stock)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 medium Barlett pears, peeled and grated 
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 cup thinly sliced celery and celery leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (*see note if you prefer to use a reduction of regular balsamic vinegar)


  1. Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a saucepan. 
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a wide 3 to 4-quart braising pan. When the olive oil is hot, add the onion and leeks and cook for about 4-5 minutes, until wilted and golden.  Season with salt to taste.  
  3. Add the rice and stir gently.  Pour in the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is absorbed – about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Ladle in just enough hot vegetable stock to cover the rice and adjust the heat so the risotto is simmering.
  5. Allow the stock to be absorbed, then continue to add hot stock in small batches – enough to moisten the rice completely – cooking and stirring continuously so each successive batch is absorbed. 
  6. After about 10 minutes, add in half of the pears and stir.  Continue to add the hot stock in small batches as you did before for another 8 minutes, or until the risotto is creamy but still al dente.  It there is a little stock left over, that is fine.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat, and vigorously stir in the butter in small teaspoon-size chunks until absorbed.  Add the remaining pear, Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano and stir until you have a nice, creamy mixture.   
  8. Serve the risotto in large, deep bowls, topped with freshly ground pepper.  I also like to add a few pieces of sliced celery and celery leaves for some added crunch.  Add a drizzle of traditional balsamic vinegar to make it really special.  (If you prefer to make a balsamic reduction, see the note below.)

Note:  To make a more economical balsamic reduction, simply pour 1 cup balsamic vinegar into a skillet and boil until reduced to ⅓ cup.  Cool completely before you use it. You can keep it in the refrigerator for several weeks.