A haunting memory: apple and speck risotto

Apple and speck risotto2 Servings

Have you ever happened to go to a restaurant or a dinner party and eat something that “shocked” your taste buds so much (in a positive way, I mean) that the memory of that dish has been haunting you ever since? That’s exactly what happened to me a few Christmases ago.

We were spending our holiday vacation in Courmayeur, a gorgeous ski resort located in Val d’Aosta, a mountainous region in northern Italy, at the foot of the Mont Blanc. One evening, famished after an entire day of skiing, we were enjoying dinner at one of the lovely restaurants in town. After carefully reading the menu, my father announced that he was going to order the apple and speck risotto. Just the idea sounded really promising and intriguing. We were not disappointed. The contrast between the tastiness of the speck (a type of dry-cured, smoked ham) and the sweetness of the apple was a match made in heaven!!!

I’ll never forget that risotto. The “version” that we tasted was made with Granny Smith apples, but the original recipe, that originates from Trentino Alto-Adige, another region in northern Italy, actually calls for Golden Delicious apples that are extensively grown in that region.

I have been meaning to make this risotto for quite some time and, eventually, I felt “inspired” to give it a try. Hauted by the memory, I decided to use some Granny Smith apples (which, by the way, are my favorite kind of apples) but feel free to use the kind of apples you like the most.

I’m really happy of how this risotto turned out. We all loved it so much that it has now found a regular place on our table. Here is the recipe – hopefully, you will love it too!

Apple and speck risotto

Ingredients:

1 cup, peeled Granny Smith apple cubes
2 slices of speck, 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup, chopped onions
1 and 1/2 Tbsp, butter
7 oz, Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1/2 cup, dry white wine
4/5 cups, beef stock
2 and 1/2 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
salt
pepper

Directions:

Cut up the speck into bits.

In a small pot, put the apple cubes, pour 1/4 cup of wine, add a ladle of beef stock and cook, on a very low heat, for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium-size non-stick pot, put 1 Tbsp of butter and the chopped onion and cook until the onion softens.

Add the rice and toss to coat for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the rest of the wine in and keep stirring until the wine evaporates completely.

Add the speck bits and two ladles of beef stock and cook, constantly stirring, until the stock is absorbed. When the beef stock has been absorbed, add another ladle of stock and keep cooking until absorbed, and then repeat the process adding more stock.

About 10 minutes after the first addition of stock, add the apple cubes along with their cooking liquid.

Keep cooking, constantly stirring, and add the rest of the stock little by little until the rice is creamy and cooked al dente. This will take about 18 minutes from the time the first ladle of stock is added. Taste the rice to check if it is necessary to add some salt, bearing in mind that the speck is pretty salty in and of itself.

Remove the pot from the heat, add 1/2 Tbsp of butter and stir until the butter is completely melted. Then, add 1 and 1/2 Tbsp of Parmigiano cheese and stir until you obtain a creamy risotto.

Put the risotto into the serving plates and dust the top of each plate with the rest of the parmigiano cheese and some pepper.

And while you enjoy your risotto… Stefano and I wish you all a very happy Halloween! 🙂

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0 thoughts on “A haunting memory: apple and speck risotto

  1. StefanGourmet

    Hi Francesca, thanks for visiting my blog. I like what I see here. The combination of speck and apples is pretty normal in Holland for pancakes (to which we would add syrup as well), but I had not thought to use in risotto. I have done risotto with pears and gorgonzola though. I thought it was interesting that you don’t sauté the speck but add it with the stock and that you use beef stock. I’d be very curious to find out what wine Stefano would pair this with — it would seem challenging to me. Perhaps a Grüner Veltliner from Alto Adige?

    1. Francesca Post author

      Hello Stefan,
      I’m so happy we eventually found each other! 🙂
      Your pears and gongorzola risotto sounds wonderful! I might go for another cheese though because Stafano doesn’t like gorgonzola. Any suggestion? Did you publish a post about this risotto? I would love to peek…
      Stefano will get back to you about the wine-pairing as soon as he can.

      1. StefanGourmet

        I thought I had done a post on risotto with pear and gorgonzola, but I can’t find it so the last time I made it must be over two years ago. Good idea to make it again while pears are still in season, and do a post.
        Stefano is missing out. It’s really blue cheese that works so well with pears, and I guess he doesn’t like other types of blue cheese either?
        I’m also happy we found each other 🙂 Look forward to Stefano’s wine pairing.

    2. Stefano

      Dear Stefan, I think a Gruner Veltliner might go well with it, even if in my recommended wine pairing I think I will go for some bubbles! 🙂 I will post about it and better explain why as soon as I have a little time to write about it! 🙂

  2. Dina

    What happened to my comment, I wonder? WP, did you eat me again? 🙂 Francesca dear, could you please have a look, maybe I ended up in your spam again?
    Wishing you a good night!
    Dina x

  3. the winegetter

    What a fabulous recipe. Now that Nina can’t eat risotto anymore (no dairy, remember), I can experiment more freely with ingredients…she doesn’t like cooked fruit, so this would have been a non-starter with her….:)

    Two of my haunting food memories are suppli, which we used to devour on our Lago di Bolsena stays during my childhood summers. Always try them whenever I see them on a menu, never did they taste as good…the other one is my first bibimbab, a Korean dish, I had on my first day in Seoul in 2000. It is still a staple dish for me, but that first one was divine…

    Thanks for bringing up those memories!

    1. Francesca Post author

      I adore suppli’. They are so outrageously good! The best suppli’ in the world are the Sicilian ones. My dad is Sicily born and raised and I remember endless summer vacations eating those delicious and super rich suppli’. I make them but I haven’t been able to achieve that perfection … at least not yet but I haven’t lost hope and I keep trying. 😉

  4. Dina

    Lovely recipe and story and quite some mouthwatering photos! I love the old traditional Granny Smith. This is a wonderful tribute to the old Dame of the apples! Great work, I’m totally convinced with this one, I could dig in right now.
    Dina xx

  5. ChgoJohn

    The memory of this risotto would have haunted me, too, Francesca. Being served apples in risotto would have shocked me as much as the first time I was served strawberry risotto in Rome. This is a special dish and would be perfect for a special occasion. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    1. Francesca Post author

      Funny you mentioned that, John! During our “dating days”, Stefano used to take me to this very fancy restaurant in Rome where strawberry and champagne risotto was served. I totally forgot about that and now you brought up the memory. Thank you! I have to try to make it. 🙂

  6. Just Add Attitude

    Ooops, I pressed the send button before proof reading. Sorry. I should have typed … the memory of it has lingered for such a long time and no other dish like it ever quite matches up to the original which evoked the memory …. 😉 😉

  7. Just Add Attitude

    Hello Francesca,

    I know what you mean a haunting food memory. Very occasionally I have tasted a dish and the memory of it has lingered for such a long time and nothing in else like ever quite matches up to it.

    It must be especially good to have a haunting food memory also associated with a family holiday – the risotto sounds delicious. 😉

    All the best B xo

  8. Fae's Twist & Tango

    Yes, I have eaten food that ‘shocked my taste buds’ many times, in many places.
    More interestingly, in some cases I could not guess the ingredient(s), whereas I am very good at.
    I had to look up what ‘speck’ means. Now I know.
    Thank you for posting a risotto recipe, as I am to make some very soon. I have risotto on my shopping list! 😀 )))

  9. whiskeytangofoxtrot4

    I am on a risotto kick right now and yours looks so delicious. Last night I had a beautiful taster ( at a lovely restaurant) of a wild mushroom risotto with a dash of rosemary and a bit of gorgonzola in there as well. It came paired with small skewers of tenderloin and a grilled cherry tomato. I am going to whip up some more tonight at home… so yummy. Yay risotto!

  10. Tracy Lee Karner

    Beautiful–I love pork and apple together, and risotto is a dreamy dish. What a brilliant combination (a triple play! I’m reveling still in baseball metaphors! How about them Sox?)

    I’m sure you don’t love baseball. I think it’s something you have to have been born into, to appreciate. It often looks as if nothing is happening, doesn’t it? Actually, watching a baseball game with afficionados is like sampling wine with connaisseurs. The talk about what’s happening and why, as well as the anticipation of something special that could happen, all contribute greatly to the enjoyment.

    1. Francesca Post author

      You are right, Tracy. I don’t like baseball but that doesn’t mean much. I don’t even like soccer and, in my country, it is tantamount to a curse. Being an introvert, I have always preferred individual sports like tennis (my favorite) and riding. Maybe when her majesty is a teen and starts playing the American team sports, I’ll change my mind. 😉

      1. Tracy Lee Karner

        I never could get into playing competitive sports, team or individual. I feel so bad when the other person loses, that I lack the competitive drive to win. Even now, when I “play” tennis, we play Tracy Tennis. That’s where the objective is to hit the ball to the other side in such a way that you make it possible for your “partner” to return it, keeping the rally going for as long as possible. And we don’t keep score.

        Likely you’ll love whatever her majesty gets involved with. I have a friend who detested football all her life, who suddenly found it a fabulously interesting and wholesome game, when her son started playing it. 🙂