Risotto all’Amarone e ciliegie

Frankprimi piatti, Risotto and Other Rice Dishes, summer33 Comments

Risotto all'Amarone e ciliegie

This recipe was born out of a challenge. One of my nieces, who lives in Rome, recently took a weekend jaunt to Verona. She had dinner one night at Darì Ristorante & Enoteca, where she tasted and fell in love with their risotto all’Amarone e ciliegie, or risotto with Amarone wine and cherries. She was so impressed, in fact, that she posted a challenge on the family chat. Who’d like to figure out how you might recreate it at home? And guess who took up the challenge…

In case you’re wondering, yes, fruit based risotti are a thing in Italian cookery, perhaps the best known being a springtime risotto made with strawberries. It might seem odd, but personally I find these risotti very appealing. You may be surprised when you taste one. They have just a hint of sweetness. And the fruit pairs well with the savory broth and even better with the butter and cheese finish. Actually, it shouldn’t be surprising, since fruit and cheese get along famously.

In the summer, cherries are a fine choice for making a fruit risotto. You typically make a cherry risotto with white wine, but the chef at Darì opted for the most iconic wine of the region: the one and only Amarone. It’s an extravagant choice, but one that works beautifully. The Amarone compliments the cherries perfectly, and the pair turn the rice a gorgeous ruby red. It’s a treat for the eye as well as the palate.

So, without further ado, here’s my take on risotto all’Amarone e ciligie. While I can’t guarantee it tastes exactly the same as the one that enchanted by niece, I can say one thing: it’s delicious.

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • 150g (5 oz or 1 cup) rice, preferably of the Vialone nano variety (see Notes)
  • 250g (9 oz) red or black cherries, pitted
  • 350 ml (1-3/4 cups) Amarone (or another full bodied red wine, see Notes)
  • Sugar, q.b.
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • A large knob (or two) of butter
  • 350 ml (1-1/2 cups) broth, or as much as you need, preferably homemade
  • 25g (1 oz) freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

Directions

Prepping the cherries and purée

Add the cherries to a saucepan along with 250ml (1 cup) of the wine and a pinch of sugar. Let the cherries simmer gently until they are tender but haven’t turned to mush. This shouldn’t take long at all, perhaps 5 minutes. As they simmer, use a wooden spoon to slightly crush the cherries.

Remove a few of the cherries for garnish. Purée the rest, along with their cooking liquid, in a blender. Taste the purée. It should have just a hint of sweetness; if need be, add another pinch of sugar.

Making your risotto

Now begin the make your risotto along the usual lines, following this master recipe:

Start by gently sautéing the shallot in the butter, then adding the rice and let it sauté gently until it turns a milky white. (It should not brown at all.) Then add a good splash of the wine—say 150ml or 3/4 cup for those who feel the need for precise measurements and stir.

When the wine evaporates, start adding the broth, ladleful by ladleful, and stirring from time to time. Once the rice has absorbed the broth from one ladle, add another ladleful of broth and keep stirring.

Repeat as needed. When the rice is half-cooked—after about 10 minutes—add half of the cherry purée in lieu of the broth, let the rice absorb it. Then continue with more broth until the rice is cooked al dente.

Meanwhile, gently simmer the other half of the cherry purée, letting it reduce until it thickens enough to coat a spoon.

When the rice is done, turn off the heat and add in the grated parmigiano-reggiano, along with another knob of butter if you like, stirring vigorously until the cheese has melted and the rice develops a nice creamy consistency. Your risotto should be quite loose. If not, add a bit more broth or water.

Serving

Plate your risotto and drizzle the rest of the purée on top, along with the reserved cherries for garnish. Serve immediately.

Notes

All the usual tips and tricks that apply to risotto making also apply here. I’d suggest you check out our post Risotto: The Basic Recipe for details.

The consistency of risotto can vary, depending on personal preferences and, to some degree, region. It can be served quite dry or quite liquid. Like many, though, I like a risotto that’s somewhere in the middle, neither very dry nor very liquid, but rather dense and creamy—all’onda as the Italians say. (“Onda” means wave in Italian, and the term refers to the “wave” of rice made by vigorous stirring the rice with butter and cheese in that last phase of the preparation.)

That said, you want to make risotto all’Amarone e ciliegie more on the liquid side. The photo my niece sent us of the dish she ate at Darì showed a creamy but quite liquid, almost soupy risotto, which is the style I understand they prefer in the Veneto and surrounding regions. As mentioned, you can regulate the consistency of your risotto by the amount of liquid you add to the rice at the end of cooking. Bear in mind that the rice will continue to absorb liquid even off heat during the final stirring and then serving, so add a bit more broth than it might seem you need. For that same reason, you should never keep risotto waiting—serve and eat it immediately.

The rice

There are three kinds of rice commonly used to make risotto: Arborio, Carnaroli and Vialone nano. Arborio is the easiest to find outside Italy (or at least here in the US) but unfortunately it tends to produce inferior results. While Arborio is great at absorbing liquid, it is actually bit too good as it tends to turn mushy faster than the other two.

Many people consider Carnaroli the ‘gold standard’ for risotto making, and it is the most popular rice in Lombardia and Piemonte. It certainly makes an excellent risotto, but personally I prefer vialone nano from the Veneto region. Its rounded shape and extraordinary ability to remain al dente lends an inimitable mouth feel to the risotto. It’s also the kind of rice that they grow in the area around Verona—and almost certainly the rice they use at Darì—so it’s the logical choice for risotto all’Amarone e ciliegie.

The wine

As many readers will know, Amarone is one of the great Italian red wines. It’s produced in the province of Valpollicella near Verona from partially dried grapes, which lend the wine marvelously rich, deep flavor and color. The only problem is that Amarone is quite expensive, even in Italy. More so here in the US, where a good bottle can set you back $90 or more. That said, I was able to find an Amarone that, while not exactly cheap at $40, wasn’t going to break the bank.

If that’s too dear for your pocketbook, then a bottle of Valpollicella Ripasso, Amarone’s younger brother made from partially dried grape skins that have been left over from fermentation of Amarone or Recioto, can be had for half the price of Amarone.

Otherwise, another full bodied red wine such as a Zinfandel or Cabernet will work just fine. In all honesty, I did my initial recipe testing with an inexpensive Zinfandel and the difference in flavor was very subtle.

Ristorante Darì

The restaurant where my niece encountered risotto all’Amarone e ciliegie looks like a lovely place judging from the website. It’s located in a charming Palazzo Ca’ Rezzonico in Verona, which I would have thought belonged to the Rezzonico family that built the renowned 18th century palazzo (now an art museum) of the same name in Venice. According to the website, though, it belonged for centuries to the descendants of Cangrande della Scala, a 14th century Veronese nobleman known among other things for being the leading patron of Dante Alighieri. The menù isn’t extensive but it looks amazing. I can see why the place enchanted my niece. Here’s her review:

Darì Ristorante & Enoteca is a hidden gem in the center of Verona. Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by the couple who owned the restaurant. Given the more upscale setting, it was a lovely surprise to encounter the personal touch of a family-run establishment.

We were ushered past the characteristically Venetian Gothic arched doorways into a leafy and atmospheric interior garden, which felt like a refuge after spending a day in the busy city center.

The wine list was extensive, with Veneto as the star of the show, of course. And the menu honored regional specialities while adding contemporary twists, leading to our choice of… risotto all’amarone e ciliegie

By the way, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that the original recipe on the restaurant menu is styled “Sua Maestà il Risotto all’Amarone, Recioto e Ciliegie“. So I gather the original dish also uses some Ricioto, the lesser known sweet version of Amarone. I am guessing they use it to braise the cherries. Here I’m simplifying the recipe, for economy but also because I couldn’t find a Ricioto near me. To mimic Ricioto’s sweetness, I added that small pinch of sugar when simmering the cherries in Amarone.

Risotto all’Amarone e ciliegie

Risotto with Amarone Wine and Cherries
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Primo
Cuisine: veneto
Keyword: braised, fruit, rice
Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 150g 5 oz or 1 cup rice for risotto preferably of the Vialone nano variety
  • 250g 9 oz red or black cherries pitted
  • 400ml 1-3/4 cups Amarone (or another full bodied red wine
  • Sugar
  • 1 shallot finely minced
  • 1-2 knobs butter
  • 350ml 1-1/2 cups broth or as much as you need, preferably homemade 
  • 25g 1 oz parmigiano-reggiano freshly grated

Instructions

Prepping the cherries and purée

  • Add the cherries to a saucepan along with 250ml (1 cup) of the wine and a pinch of sugar. Let the cherries simmer gently until they are tender but haven't turned to mush. This shouldn't take long at all, perhaps 5 minutes. As they simmer, use a wooden spoon to slightly crush the cherries. 
  • Remove a few of the cherries for garnish. Purée the rest, along with their cooking liquid, in a blender. Taste the purée. It should have just a hint of sweetness; if need be, add another pinch of sugar. 

Making the risotto

  • Start by gently sautéing the shallot in the butter, then adding the rice and let it sauté gently until it turns a milky white, then add a good splash of the wine.
  • When the wine evaporates, start adding the broth, ladleful by ladleful, and stirring from time to time. Once the rice has absorbed the broth from one ladle, add another ladleful of broth and keep stirring. 
  • Repeat as needed. When the rice is half-cooked—after about 10 minutes—add half of the cherry purée in lieu of the broth, let the rice absorb it. Then continue with more broth until the rice is cooked al dente
  • Meanwhile, gently simmer the other half of the cherry purée, letting it reduce until it thickens enough to coat a spoon. 
  • When the rice is done, turn off the heat and add in the grated parmigiano-reggiano, along with another knob of butter if you like, stirring vigorously until the cheese has melted and the rice develops a nice creamy consistency. Your risotto should be quite loose. If not, add a bit more broth or water. 

Serving

  • Plate your risotto and drizzle the rest of the purée on top, along with the reserved cherries for garnish. Serve immediately. 

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33 Comments on “Risotto all’Amarone e ciliegie”

  1. This is fascinating! I’ve only ever had Iranian cherry rice (albaloo polo), but as a risotto, this has my head spinning. Thank you for this!

  2. Hello Frank, I’m planning to do this dish along with braised short ribs and was wondering what type of vegetable dish would you suggest to make it complete?
    Salut
    Steve

    1. Gee, you could go in all sorts of directions. Just about any veg would go with braised short ribs, other than ones that have a lot of sauce to them. My first instinct would be a simple sautéed green like spinach or perhaps green beans. If you search “in padella” and you’ll see various options. And if you’re serving the risotto Italian-style, i.e. as a separate first course rather than a side, then potatoes, of course.

  3. Your recreation of the risotto all’Amarone e ciliegie sounds like a culinary adventure! The combination of Amarone wine and cherries is totally unique, totally unexpected from me. It’s amazing how Italian cuisine can surprise us with delightful flavors.

  4. Mark and I definitely plan to try this. The use of fruit in savory dishes always appeals to us. And I finally got out yesterday to the Italian import store for more arborio rice!

  5. Very interesting! I love adding sweet ingredients in my risotto – but that’s a dessert type of risotto (which may even not exist lol), without the use of savoury ingredients. Pairing fruits with other basic risotto ingredients may sound a bit odd, but I think it turned out perfectly. At least it looks stunning and sounds appealing. Well done!

    1. Thanks Ben! Worth a try if you’re not familiar. One of those dishes you either love or hate. In my case, it’s love. 😉

  6. Oh man! I have completely forgotten how amazing fruit risotto is.Thank you for bringing it up! Must do but I’ll do plums versions and grappa; too late for cherries ….

  7. Hi Frank !
    Mamma Mia…I don’t know where to start 🙂
    Found all ingredients, and in the process discovered a nice wine I never heard of. Went for broke as I had some apprehensions, prepared it to the T and couldn’t believe the result. This dish is soooooooo good ! We travel a lot to Italy and Sicily for the past years and this came as a reminder of what[culinary] life is about, you’re never done discovering.
    Served with a generous salad and pour of Amarone[the bottle didn’t survive…Amen].
    Thank you so much for taking up the challenge which I was happy to follow up as I’m the same way 😉
    Mille grazie !

  8. Well this certainly is a different recipe, Frank! I do love a good cooking challenge, and I applaud you for taking this one on. I just wish your niece could try it and give us the comparison rating! I would never have thought about fruit and risotto, but it makes sense once you stop and think about it. I’ve also never had Amarone – although I think we might have had a whiskey finished in an Amarone cask once? Can I use that instead? Hah! Just kidding!

    1. Me, too. Unfortunately they haven’t figure out a way to tele-transport food yet, and I don’t know if Fedex would be willing…

      As for the whiskey in Amarone barrels, it sounds nice! (But not in the risotto, lol!)

  9. Wow, that does look incredible. I bet it would be extremely delicious with roast duck or even pork! The colour is wonderful too. I can see the cherries beginning to make an appearance at our green grocers so I may just have to put this on my list!

    1. Thanks, Eva! As you probably know, in Italy risotto is usually served as its own course, but I agree this would make a lovely side dish as well. Hope you like it.

  10. this is very interesting Frank. I’ve only ever made and eaten fruit risottos that were basically dessert – like a fruity rice pudding. This is such an interesting take on it.

  11. Reading the comments before mine I have just burst out laughing! Cherries and cheese . . . surely not !!! I prepare risottos all the time . . . got used to various vegetable combos and even joyfully using red wine, but . . . “) ! Well, cannot try for another five months, but, oh boy – this recipe will be on top of the pile when the cherries announce themselves Down Under! Shall tell friends . . .

    1. Thanks Eva! You know you can make risotto with just about anything, it seems. Wonderfully versatile dish. Hope you like it.

  12. I had the pleasure of tasting risotto with pears in Lucca. It was delizioso! I have since cooked it at home with great success. I enjoy your site very much. Keep posting all the authentic Italian recipes. Grazie mille.

  13. That’s a worthy challenge. I remember cheese and jam (jelly) sandwiches working well, so I can totally see black cherries and parmigiano producing something far more sophisticted and delicious.

    1. Thanks, Angie. It really does have a lovely flavor and creamy texture. Worth a try if you haven’t had this kind of thing before.

  14. Risotto with cherries? Just sounds so oddly different. But then fruit glazes are so often used on duck, ham etc in the US. I can’t say that I have ever been fond of mixing fruit and meats together, but risotto w the cherries, and your pic of same, just looks and sounds delicious! I can see it going well with so many dishes, but for a first time just put a double serving in front of me, a spoon, a napkin and don’t watch! I bet you win the family contest! Great story. Thanks for sharing!

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