Pasta Risotto & You

By Nancy Caivano


Cooking Liquids


Hello!! Welcome to the October edition of Pasta, Risotto and You! This issue will talk about some liquids that will make your Pasta and Risotto recipes taste better! For the Pasta, we will take a look at cooking liquid and how different liquids impact different recipes. In the Risotto section, we will take a look at different "first" liquids, usually wines, and how using different spirits, like Brandy, can make a difference.

Pasta Most of us use water when boiling pasta, which is fine. What I want to take a look at is how sometimes changing the liquid can impact your recipe. For instance, if you replace half or all of the water with good quality chicken or beef stock, the flavor is absorbed into the pasta, giving it a fabulous taste. This method would be especially good if combining the pasta with simple sautéed vegetables, or when you aren't using a heavy sauce. I don't recommend using stock in a recipe where you will be using a heavy sauce, as the flavor of the sauce will overpower any flavor in the pasta. Well-salted water is fine in that instance. If you are combining your pasta with sautéed shellfish, as in a stir-fry, try adding clam juice and a little lemon juice to your cooking liquid. It will nicely enhance the flavor of the finished dish.

You don't always have to change the liquid to add flavor to your pasta. Try cooking garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs or lemon wedges in the water with your pasta. This will subtly flavor the pasta, enhancing the finished dish. Experiment with different flavors, finding one that suits you.

In most Risotto recipes, the sautéing of the rice is followed by a first addition of liquid, usually white wine, which is absorbed before adding the first addition of stock. White wine gives a neutral flavor to the finished dish, which is why it is most commonly used. In certain recipes, I have found it beneficial to change the white wine in favor of another liquid more suited to the recipe.

For example, in a mushroom risotto, I would use a red wine as my first addition, which is heartier, and brings out the flavor of the mushrooms. In a shellfish risotto, I might use brandy, which really complements the flavor of the shellfish, and perfumes the entire dish. In last month's recipe of Risotto with Morels and Apples, I used Calvados (apple brandy), to reinforce the flavor of the apples throughout the dish. Don't be afraid to experiment!! The first liquid doesn't always have to be an alcoholic liquid. You can also use fruit juices, or maybe clam juice in a fish risotto. In the Morel and Apple Risotto, apple juice could have been substituted for the Calvados, and would have worked well. In a risotto that lists orange zest as an ingredient, you might use orange juice as a first liquid to reinforce the flavors. There are hundreds of combinations that you can use. Try to find one that enhances the finished dish, without overpowering the main ingredients.

I hope you enjoy this months recipes. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please drop me a line, [email-address-removed]. I'd love to hear from you!

See you next month,


Pasta, Risotto and You Archive

This page created October 1998