A couple nights ago at dinner, I told the kids I was going to start writing my blog again. (I still can’t figure out how to import the old one over here, be patient with me.) Sister One pipped up quickly, “Oh mommy the one where you write about what you cook?” Sister One appreciates a good meal. I told them I would make whatever they requested over the next week. Both girls gleefully asked for Risotto Casserole. Brother is still deciding and Littlest is too little to have family favorites yet. Although she is happily trying carrots and peas this week!
The Risotto Casserole is time consuming so I’m going to make it this weekend. Probably Saturday as it will taste even better as leftovers on Sunday.
I found the recipe a couple of years ago when Husband gave me the Every Night Italian cookbook by Giuliano Hazan. The book is a gem and you’ll see lots of recipes from this favorite over the next few months. It’s a winter cookbook. Let me explain.
Some people organize their closets by season. Me? Well I organize my cookbooks. It’s that time of year when I lovingly retire my summer, lighter fare books for those with more hearty temptations for the darker, colder season. The aforementioned risotto would just not taste right in July. Short Rib Bourbon Stew in August? ICK! But watch for this delicious dish (courtesy of Lulu my friend and cook extraordinaire) over the next few months.
But I digress. Back to the risotto – for my daughters because they love this dish!
- 1 1/2 cups carnaroli rice (any risotto rice will do, this is what I have)
- 4 T butter, plus more for the rice and baking dish
- 2 c whole milk (I usually use skim or a mix)
- 1/4 c all-purpose flour
- Freshly ground pepper
- 6 oz boiled ham, sliced thin and chopped (I use DeBecca Maple Ham from WF)
- 3/4 c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 6 oz fresh mozzarella
Preheat oven to 400 F. Fill a pot with a least 3 quarts water and bring to a boil. Ad about 2 tsp salt and the rice and stir well. Cook covered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked but still firm to the bite (al dente). Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl. Toss the rice with a bit of butter to prevent the grains from sticking.
While the rice is cooking, make a béchamel sauce. Heat the milk just until you can see steam rising, being careful not to let it come to a boil. Melt the 4 T butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Add the hot milk a few tablespoons at a time at first, whisking until the mixture is smooth before adding more milk. Do not be alarmed if the béchamel becomes very thick at first. It will get thinner as you whisk more milk. Once it ha become thin, you can pour the milk in more rapidly. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium-low heat until the sauce thickly covers the whisk. Season with S&P before removing from the heat.
Pour the béchamel over the rice, reserving a few spoonfuls for the top of the casserole. Ad the ham and all but 2 T of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mix well and taste for S&P.
Butter the bottom and sides (I spray) of a 2 1/2 quart baking dish that is about 3 1/2 inches deep. Pour in half of the rice mixture. Slice the mozzarella about 1/8 inch thick and layer slices over the rice. Add the remaining rice mixture and smooth the surface with a spoon. Spread the remaining béchamel over the top and sprinkle with the remaining 2 T of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Bake for 15 minutes. If after 15 minutes the top is not speckled with brown, place the dish under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, or until the top begins to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to settle for about 5 minutes before serving.