All my family, from my mother side, comes from Piedmont, Italian greatest rice fields, the ones that grow the famous Arborio and Vialone rice. I was born there and grew up with my grand parents or a little while .
My grandmother Giovanna, was a great cook and my world was very much, when not in school ‘assisting’ in the kitchen.
The risotto was a weekly tradition, following the seasons and available ingredients like Risotto ai Funghi (Mushrooms Risotto) in the fall or Asparagus Risotto in the Spring.
Summer time though was not a very creative time, so it was normally a Risotto al Rosemarino (rosemary) simple quick, ready when my grandpa would come home from work for lunch… as everybody did in town, the risotto was exactly crunchy an soft as it should be at the moment when served… the parmesan moment…
One day, this memory sticking into my head till now that I am over 60. Little girl about 4 years old, sitting at the table, I was very much reluctant to eat the usual bland risotto prepared for me…then…
My eyeballs suddenly so big well right in front of me, my gentle conservative grandmother, strong woman of her time, was pouring her glass of red Barbera wine into her risotto plate ….. What? at 12:30 pm?…
I was shocked, silly to say almost scared… so I quickly swallowed all my own little risotto portion in a flash, before, I thought, she would be totally drunk and grand pa totally upset… why?, I was wondering, what has happen to her ?… she was always ‘preaching’ to me and my uncle… about over drinking (like I would slide under the table at 4 years old…right … )
Diligently I finished and pushing my empty plate to show I had been nice. I asked ‘the question’:
“Nonna perche hai messo il vino? Grandma, why the wine?
(I honestly thought she was like me, and wanted to have a good reason not to eat the ever lasting risotto ) a childish thinking…
She smiled, not mad at me at all, and thought me one of my first traditional cooking lessons..
“E’ la Panissa”, she said “one of our countrymen wonderful dishes – come and taste it…”
Taste it? … Hummm, not sure, but I loved her, so I went around the table anyway, took a big breath .. I taste it .. It was good actually very good, no taste of wine at all, but creamy and soft on the palate…with a slight edge, and some delicious purple beans crunchy tasty…
Buono? Well yes, Buonissimo ..
I had just tasted one of the most simplest, oldest dish from our region, the one that the rice growers, the rice pickers (at that time it was picked by hand) ate almost every day, during the rice harvest season, since centuries…
Believe me or not I really think now, that my passion for cooking started right there in my Nonna Giovanna’s Kitchen.
Here is the VERY TRADITIONAL PANISSA RECIPE
Ingredients: yield 4 servings
- 1 ¾ cup of Vialone , Arborio or Carnaroli rice
- 1 ¼ of Borlotti bean ( cranberry or Saluggia beans)
- 4 inch of piece of pork rid
- bean and pork broth ( about 2 ½ cups)
- ½ onion thinly chopped
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 glass of Barbera wine
- ½ uncooked salami – or salami preserved on his fat
- 4tablespoons of good olive oil
- 1 good tablespoon of butter
How you make it:
- In a large pan, cook in cold water and slowly, Borlotti beans, pork rind add 1 tablespoon of olive oil till beans are done.
- Grease a large skillet with some pork rind, chopped onion, slowly cook till onions are translucent, add salami pieces, tomato paste, stir well, let it cook till salami pieces are slightly browned, add rice And ‘toast’ it, has to be not browned but translucent, add wine let evaporate, cover the rice with Borlotti Beans broth.
- The broth has to sit 1 inch on top of the rice. Cook following rice direction about 17-19 minutes uncovered. We do not turn the rice , to keep a small crust on the bottom of the pan.. When is done add remaining butter, let the rice time to rest 2 minutes or …’mantecare’… meaning all flavors to blend and Serve !!!
Buon Appetito !!!!