1 small bunch (6 oz.) Tuscan kale, stems and coarse ribs removed
1 ounce diced pancetta or thinly sliced speck* cut crosswise into 1/2-in.-wide ribbons
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
About 6 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, heated until steaming
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup chopped oil-and-vinegar-marinated or oil-packed dried tomatoes
How to Make It
Heat grill to medium (350° to 450°). In a large bowl, mix 1 tbsp. oil, the garlic, and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Add kale and toss to coat well. Dump onto grill, quickly arrange in a single layer, and grill, turning once, until streaked brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to crisp up, then slice into ribbons about 1/2 in. wide and 3 to 4 in. long.
Brown pancetta in a medium saucepan over medium heat, about 4 minutes (if using speck, don't cook). With a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels. Add enough oil to fat in pan to make 2 tbsp.
Add rice to pan, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until rice starts to toast slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Add onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper; cook until onion is softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add enough broth to just cover rice; cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is absorbed. Continue adding broth to just cover rice and stirring until it's barely tender, 15 to 18 minutes. If needed, add more broth so risotto is loose-textured; it will thicken a bit as it stands.
Remove risotto from heat and loosely fold in pancetta, mascarpone, walnuts, butter, and tomatoes. Fold in most of kale and spoon into a serving dish. Top with remaining kale and serve immediately.
I didn't find this dish too bland, though I was surprised that it didn't have a stronger flavor considering the ingredients. I used the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes to cook the onion, but substituted a shallot. I also used a cup of white wine to cook the risotto before I started to add broth. The kale was a pain. I cooked it in the oven instead of grilling it because I made this in winter. If you didn't want to go through the production you could buy kale chips. Don't skip the kale though, it adds a great and necessary texture. I also skipped the butter to save some calories and fat... it seemed like it had enough.
Just made this tonight with high hopes, I mean doesn't pancetta and mascarpone make everything better? Wrong. It was just plain bland, with hardly any flavor. It had the proper risotto texture, but just no flavor. I would have thought the onions, pancetta, butter, mascarpone, and stock would have imparted a nice savory flavor but oh well. Perhaps if you are a creative chef you can kick up the flavor in this one, but I think I'll just try other risotto recipes I know I enjoy next time, rather than try and mess with this one.
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