Risotto with Fennel and Pancetta

Ingredients

  •  
  • 5-7 thin slices of pancetta, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

One the best chef cooking tips I've ever picked up? Add a touch of mascarpone to risotto — it gives the dish that extra bit of smooth, silky richness you didn't even know was missing. This recipe is a true favorite, combining salt from the pancetta with the slight sweetness of the cooked fennel.

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Directions

In a large pot, cook the diced pancetta over medium-low heat until crispy (you might even want to border on crunchy so that it retains a nice textures), about 6 minutes. Next, add the sliced fennel and olive oil and cook for about 4 minutes until it starts to soften. Then add the rice, stirring for about 1-2 minutes, coating it with the oil.

There is a misconception about risotto I would like to clear up: It does not need to be stirred constantly. Frequently, and with a watchful eye, yes. That said, add about a third to a half cup of chicken broth to the rice, stirring every so often to make sure the rice isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once most of the liquid has been absorbed, add another portion of chicken broth, and stir. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked (when it's closer to al dente than soft.)

Add in the cheeses and mix until fully incorporated. Season with salt and black pepper as desired (careful with the salt though, there's a decent amount there naturally from the pancetta and cheese). Serve in a bowl or plate and garnish with a light sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

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