Years ago, before we were married, there was a dish that was the favorite in our home. I called it Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Pastina, and I had adapted it the Travigne Cookbook, one of the first cookbooks I purchased after moving to Chicago. It was a pretty simple dish – a pureed sauce of roasted red bell peppers, jalepenos and roasted garlic, folded into beautiful little orbs of pastina cooked in broth. If you can eat wheat, try cooking Pastina sometime. It’s the smallest kind of pasta you can buy – it looks like couscous’ big brother, and cooks up into plump little balls. A simple sauce clings to the pastina beautifully. I would usually top the dish with a few shrimp that had been sauteed with garlic and olive oil. YUM.
I hadn’t thought about this dish in many years – giving up wheat, I’d tossed this old favorite into the dustbin of memory, until Mark inquired about it a few days ago. They don’t make rice pastina that I’ve seen, so I decided to dust the cobwebs off the central idea of the recipe – roasted peppers – and turn it into a risotto. The results were just as tasty as the pastina, and now we have an old favorite back on the menu.
To put a new twist on the recipe, I decided to make the risotto in the rice cooker…a technique which I am dubbing “fancy lazyfood.” Making a risotto without standing at the stove for 35 minutes?! Sign me up! The finished texture of the dish is a little softer than you’d get with the slow stirred stove-top method, but I can give that up for a nice weeknight meal if it frees me from the stove so that I can catch up on 30 Rock while rocking out on the elliptical machine. If you’re making this on the stovetop, refer back to my mushroom risotto recipe for the basic technique, and just add the red pepper puree when the rice is nearly done. Tip: I made the sauce over the weekend, so all I had to do when I got home was take care of the rice.
Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Risotto
4 Red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and de-seeded
3 jalepenos, roasted, peeled and de-seeded
4 cloves garlic, roasted, peeled
salt to taste
cayenne to taste
- Preheat the broiler. Put the red peppers, jalepenos and garlic (in their skins) on a pan. Place under the broiler on the top shelf for 5 minutes, until the tops of the peppers begin to blacken. Using tongs, turn the peppers onto an un-charred side and broil for another 5 minutes until the second side of the peppers is blackened. Turn the peppers again and broil until the third side is roasted. When the peppers are pretty well charred on all sides, move the peppers and garlic to a mixing bowl, cover with a plate or lid, and let the peppers rest for 5 minutes. The heat from the peppers will steam the skins loose.
- After five minutes, you should be able to easily peel and de-seed the peppers, and take the skins off the garlic. Put the peppers and their juices and the garlic cloves into a food processor or mini-prep and puree until smooth. Add salt to taste, and a few sprinkles of cayenne if it’s not spicy enough. Set aside. You will have some sauce leftover if you’re making a small batch of risotto – freeze it, or use it as a pizza sauce, or toss with some noodles for another night.
3/4 cup + 2 T aborio rice
1/2 onion, diced
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock, heated
pinch of saffron
1/2 tsp salt (only needed if using homemade, unsalted stock)
Garnish: sauteed shrimp and parmesan cheese
Rice Cooker Risotto:
- Note: I have a fancy “fuzzy logic” (don’t ask me what that means) rice cooker that has a porridge setting that I used to cook the rice – a regular rice cooker should take 25-35 minutes to do the risotto.
- Heat your stock in the microwave until it’s nearly boiling. Warm 3/4 cup of the red pepper sauce in the micro (does not need to be boiling).
- Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 T olive oil, then add the onions and saute for 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the rice to the pan, and stir around for 2-3 more minutes until the rice is well coated in oil and a little bit toasted. Add the wine to the pan, and stir until the wine is absorbed.
- Scoop the rice mixture into the bowl of your rice cooker, and add the stock, salt (if needed) and the saffron. Close the lid on the rice cooker and cook on the porridge setting. It did not need a full cooking cycle – it cooked for about 35-40 minutes in my machine, and I did stir it once mid-cycle just to check on things. When it’s done, taste, add a little more salt if needed, and serve in bowls with freshly grated parmesan, and top with a few sauteed shrimp if you’re feeling extra fancy.