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.
- 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)
- Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a saucepan.
- 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.
- Add the rice and stir gently. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is absorbed – about 1-2 minutes.
- Ladle in just enough hot vegetable stock to cover the rice and adjust the heat so the risotto is simmering.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.