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It seems like everyone has at least a couple of cherished family recipes passed down from their grandmother. Whether it’s a comforting Portuguese kale soup recipe or the perfect cornbread, these family recipes, passed down through the generations, are even more delicious when you know the stories behind them. Giada De Laurentiis’ grandmother was just like ours — she loved Italian food, especially rice. One kind of major difference? De Laurentiis’ grandma, Silvana Mangano, was an ultra-glamorous Italian movie star. To De Laurentiis, she was just Nonna Luna, but to the rest of the world, especially in Italy, she was a starlett approaching the fame of Sophia Loren. Nonna Luna’s first movie role was in Bitter Rice, and that’s where De Laurentiis found inspiration for her delicious take on risotta alla milanese, which seasons rice with saffron and radicchio.
Traditionally, risotto alla milanese contains saffron
, which gives the creamy rice a lovely golden hue and fragrant flavor. But De Laurentiis’ addition of chopped radicchio adds just a hint of bitterness, which is almost refreshing in its ability to cut throught the richness of the rice.
Then, to balance the flavors out even more, De Laurentiis also throws in some dried cranberries, which are sweet and tart, and seamlessly meld with the flavors of the radicchio and saffron. Each bite of rice (use arborio rice
or carnaroli) is flavorful, unique, and makes you want to keep going back for more.
Some people get scared of making risotto, but this recipe really isn’t so difficult. You can see how she makes it in episode 2 of her show Giada In Italy (and if you’re a fan of escapist food television, we totally recommend you watch the show, which is basically De Laurentiis on vacation in Italy, cooking traditional dishes in front of a gorgeous setting). Though you do need to stir the rice frequently, it’s only for about 20 minutes, which is totally doable. It’s also worth it.
The rice absorbs the flavorful saffron-infused broth and wine mixture, becoming creamy as its stirred. Stirring in butter and Parmesan at the end makes it even more luxurious. De Laurentiis says that “the mixture should still have movement and not be too stiff,” and as the judges on “Top Chef” always say, the risotto should spread on your plate — you can add a splash of broth if you need to loosen it up.
The end result? Bitter Rice, in honor of Nonna Luna, a show-stopping dish that your family will devour.
In search of more summer recipes? Giada De Laurentiis has plenty:
Watch: How to Make Giada De Laurentiis’ Stuffed Lasagna Rolls