Fall is a wonderful season here in Italy, and as we move away from the usual summer produce offerings, we begin to see mushrooms, pumpkins, cold weather greens, and beets, showing up in our local markets along with other typical fall vegetables. I do love cooking with mushrooms, but unfortunately porcini mushrooms, which have a wonderful meaty flavor, just are not easy to find here in Umbria.
On our recent trip to Venice I was thrilled to find a variety of fresh fall mushrooms and just couldn’t resist buying some to bring home. We bought a selection of chiodini, finferli, and porcini mushrooms that I turned into this tasty, creamy mushroom dish. To enhance the meaty flavor of the porcini mushrooms, I used a homemade beef stock that I had in the freezer and some fresh thyme for seasoning from my vegetable garden.
You can use either white or red wine in this dish, although red wine will obviously change the color, although red wine does work well with mushrooms. You should use an Italian variety of rice that is specifically grown in Italy, such as Arborio, Vialone Nano, or Cararoli. Arborio can now be found in most American grocery stores, but certainly can be found at an Italian specialty store. I discovered an amazing, if not inexpensive brand of rice called Acquerello that has won multiple awards and creates the perfect risotto. This rice is sold in a blue and silver can, and is an aged Carnaroli variety of rice. Acquerello can be bought online or at some specialty stores. You can read more about this rice on their website.
You can use any combination of any mushrooms including baby bella, portabello, cremini, oyster, or shiitake mushrooms all work well. If your choice of mushrooms is limited to cultivated button mushrooms, you can improve the flavor by adding some rehydrated dried chopped porcini mushrooms.
If you are new to preparing risotto, you might find my primer The Realities of Risotto helpful. I used a newer method, called an “almost no stir” preparation, to make this risotto, but feel free to follow the traditional method if you prefer. It is said that cheese should not be offered with any mushroom, seafood, or spicy dish, but I do feel that is a personal preference so I will leave that up to you. I simply served my risotto with some cracked black pepper, a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves, and garnished it with a few sautéed mushrooms.
Meaty porcini mushrooms sold at the Venice market.
- 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 12 Ounces Wild Mixed Mushrooms, Finely Chopped, Reserving 1/3 Cup For Garnish (You May Substitute Other
- Mushrooms If Unavailable)
- 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Onion
- 1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice
- 1/2 Cup Dry White or Red Wine (See Notes Above)
- 5 Cups Homemade Beef Broth, Heated
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Chopped Fresh Thyme
- 1/2 Cup Mascarpone Cheese
- Cracked Black Pepper
- Fresh Thyme Leaves
- Reserved Mushrooms
- Heat the butter and oil in a heavy cast iron saucepan.
- Cook the mushrooms until golden brown over medium heat, stirring often, about 7 to 8 minutes
- Remove the 1/3 cup of mushrooms and set aside for serving.
- Add the onions to the remaining mushrooms in the pan along with the thyme, and cook until they are translucent.
- Add the rice and stir until it is well coated with the butter mixture.
- Add the wine, and stir continually over medium heat until it is absorbed.
- Add 4 1/2 cups of hot broth to the pan and reduce the heat to medium low.
- Cook the rice for 16 to 18 minutes, stirring twice during this period, or until the risotto is "al dente".
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Add an additional 1/2 cup of broth and stir constantly for about 3 to 4 minutes until creamy.
- Add the mascarpone cheese and stir until well mixed.
- Remove from the heat and serve in individual bowls topped with some of the reserved mushrooms, thyme leaves and additional cracked black pepper.