Risotto with Pears, Black Pepper and Grana Padano -- Risotto alle Pere con Grana Padano
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1 cup chopped leeks
2 cups carnaroli or similar risotto rice (arborio works well)
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups hot chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
½ teaspoon salt
2 Bartlett or similar pears, peeled, cored and grated
½ cup thinly sliced celery
4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
⅔ cup freshly grated Grana Padano cheese (see note)
Freshly ground black pepper
Aged balsamic vinegar
In a heavy, nonreactive skillet, heat olive oil and sauté onion and leeks until wilted. Add rice and stir to coat with oil. Add wine and stir until almost dry. Add ½ cup hot stock in small batches (just enough to moisten rice) and cook until each successive batch has been absorbed, about 3-5 minutes between each addition.
After adding half of the stock, add grated pears and stir to incorporate. Continue to add the hot stock and cook until rice is al dente and the risotto is perfectly creamy. Stir in celery.
Remove skillet from heat, mix in the cubed butter and slowly whisk in the cheese. Stir well until completely homogeneous. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, if desired.
Spoon risotto into 6 serving bowls and top each serving with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Cook's note: Freshly grated parmesan cheese may also be used.
Chef Lidia Bastianich, La Scoula at Eataly, Chicago