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Risotto with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese: Grandma’s Maria pantry

It occurred to me just recently that things that we consider culinary delights, not so long ago were a pure necessity. For us, modern girl that sometimes have a more stable relationship with our refrigerator than with other human beings, for us that are so used to doing our shopping in big supermarkets where you can find strawberries and tomatoes even in December, it’s difficult to imagine that our mothers grew up in houses where talking about a refrigerator seemed as strange as talking about UFO. But even if it seems strange, our grandmas DID manage the house without a fridge…so here we are with the story of Grandma’s Maria pantry, a magic room full of food.

Rodi Garganico is a small fishermen village in the south of Italy, just a white blur suspended between a blue sky and a wonderful and transparent sea. Maria lived there with her husband and her 3 children, in a white house in the center of the village. Summer has always been generous: the sea gave fishes and the fertile land gave olives, tomatoes, corn and a lot of fruit. But this generous land had known wars (my husband’s father was born in 1949, just 4 years after the II World War) and Maria’s husband had spent a lot of years far away under the army. So, gestures handed down for generations, seemed even more important. You had to work hard so that your pantry had enough food to feed the family during winter.

My step-father perfectly remembers those years and how, as a small child, he climbed the stair and entered this magic room full of food: olives, walnuts, melons, sacks of flour that Maria used to make a big bread loaf every 2 weeks..and of course tomatoes.

Sun-dried tomatoes have an ancient story: Maria made what for generations other women had done. She cut tomatoes in 2 halves and let them dry in open air over a wooden surface, under the rays of the sun. Every night she took them inside, to preserve them from humidity. Then, after a wash in water and a careful drying, they ended up in a jar covered with olive oil.

Now it’s time to open that jar…and begin to cook this risotto!

Ingredients: (serves 4)

– 400 g rice (Carnaroli or Arborio)

– 1 onion finely chopped

– half a glass of white dry wine

– sun-dried tomatoes under oil

– 200 g chèvre (goat cheese)

– 4 spoons of olive oil

– salt, pepper

– 1 teaspoon of butter

– parmesan cheese (grated)

– boiling water

Put oil and 1 onion finely chopped in a pan and fry lightly. Add rice and toast it (touch it with your finger, when it’s warm it’s ready), add the wine and let evaporate. Cook the rice adding a little bit at a time boiling water, remember to toss frequently. After 7 minutes add sun-dried tomatoes cut in small stripes. Adjust with salt and pepper. Meanwhile cut the cheese in small cubes. When the rice is cooked you can stir: add the goat cheese, the butter and the parmesan cheese. If you want you can use a pastry ring for make a nice shape. That you can put also in your fridge and eat the day after. Buon appetito!

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