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Fennel and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto

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Makes 2 main or 4 side servings.

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon butter
1 diced shallot, divided
½ cup Arborio rice (risotto)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium broth, or as much as needed
1/4 cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup fennel, chopped
1/8 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (about 3 tomatoes)
¼ cup heavy cream or half ‘n half
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon butter, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste
Good extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Place pinenuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Shake pan in a back-and-forth motion until pinenuts are golden and aromatic, about 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat broth in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it's hot, lower to a simmer.

For the risotto, start by sautéing half the shallots in 1 teaspoon olive oil and butter. Add the Arborio rice; toast for about 1 minute. Cook the risotto at a slow simmer, adding heated broth ½ cupful at a time. Most cookbooks will tell to stir continuously; I don’t, and you don't have to either. You can stir occasionally; just make sure the risotto absorbs the liquid before adding more. It will become tender and creamy as it cooks. Season will some salt about halfway through so it blends well, and add the white wine. 4-5 cups of broth works for this recipe, but use more or less as needed. It takes about 20 minutes for the risotto to become completely cooked. Taste it -- it should be wonderfully creamy and thick. It’s best al dente, which means it should still retain some firmness when you chew it.

After about 10 minutes of cooking the risotto, place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the dry fennel seeds and toast for about 1 minute or until aromatic. Then add 1 teaspoon of olive oil, the other half of the shallots, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, and some salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat until the fennel becomes slightly softened but not mushy, about 7-8 minutes. At this point, the risotto should be cooked, so add the sautéed fennel to it and stir well. Add the cream or half n’ half; stir until mixed in well and heated, about 1 minute. Turn off heat, then add the Parmesan cheese so it will melt more slowly. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Adding 1 tablespoon of butter at this point adds a touch more creaminess, but it's optional.

Plate your risotto, topping it with the toasted pine nuts and some grated Parmesan. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top for an extra Mmmmmm and serve immediately.

- Recipe courtesy of Susan Russo

 

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