It’s been exactly a week since we’ve been back in Dallas from our trip to Italy and Spain. The 7 days that we spent in Italy gave me a whole new level of appreciation for Italian food and even more for authentic Italian ingredients. I’ve been itching to cook with the oils, vinegar and cheese that we got from Modena.
While we were in Modena, Italy we had the opportunity to tour a dairy that makes Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (Yum!). We toured the 4 Madonne Caseificio Dell Emilia diary. If you guys plan a trip to Italy, I highly recommend doing the tour. The prices range between €5 – €15, depending on the type of cheese tasting you’d like to do.
The dairy tour taught me so much about this amazing cheese:
- Only cheese produced in the areas of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and part of Bologna can be called Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Italians don’t have anything called as “parmesan” cheese. Parmesan is an imitation of Parmigiano Reggiano and you should always read the product label before buying!
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese that has been aged for over 12 months is actually 100% lactose free. So those who are avoiding lactose or have intolerance to lactose, can still consume aged Parmigiano Reggiano. The reason is that within 6 to 8 hours after the cheese is made, lactose is transformed into easy-to-digest lactic acid through the action of enzymes in the cheese.
- All of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese that comes from this region of Italy abides by strict guidelines of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium. This consortium monitors the production standards, mark application as well as regulates the feed for the dairy cows!
At the end our tour and cheese tasting, we bought some (erm, 5 lbs to be exact) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and arborio rice to bring back to Dallas. I knew I had to put them into a recipe as soon as possible. For our date night in this past weekend, I decided to whip up a quick pesto risotto, which some Pistachio Pesto that I had in made earlier. This recipe needs a few ingredients and a little technique to give you an amazing restaurant quality risotto in your own home!Arborio rice is what is traditionally used to make risotto. It is a short grain rice, which when cooked forms firm, creamy, chewy, rounded grains. I have found it at my local grocery store or even on Amazon. It’s best cooked with vegetable or chicken stock, by adding one ladle at a time of the warm stock. This method of cooking is a little more time consuming than regular rice but believe me, it will give you the perfect risotto with just the right texture and consistency. Once you have your risotto rice cooked, you can add in some pesto or vegetable or just some nice cheese if you prefer it plain.
This risotto is bound to elevate your date night in or even impress your friends on a your next gathering! For me its just reminiscent of our wonderful Italian holiday! Ciao!
- Heat olive oil to a medium skillet.
- Add the rice and toast until lightly golden brown about 2 minutes.
- Pour in warm vegetable stock, one ladle at a time until liquid is absorbed. (You can keep stock warm in a saucepan). Keep stirring the rice occasionally as you continue to add the stock.
- Cook for 20 minutes or until all of the vegetable stock is completely absorbed.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and add in the cheese, pesto, salt and pepper.
- Stir to combine and serve immediately.