Any visit to Lake Como is not complete until you have dinner at the famed Villa d’Este. One of the most iconic hotels in the world, Villa d’Este has set the standard for luxury since it opened in the 16th century. This is Villa d’Este’s recipe for risotto, one of the signature dishes at the exquisite on-site restaurant La Veranda.
Risotto + Lago di Como
There are certain words — especially in the beautiful, melodic Italian language — that have the power to relax and transport us the moment they enter our minds. Words like prosecco, risotto, and Lago di Como. Perhaps the only thing as powerful as the harmonious Italian language is the unique, exquisite Italian cuisine. This is especially true for this decadent risotto recipe from one of Lake Como’s grandest resorts, Villa d’Este. The 5-star hotel has been charming visitors since 1873. With its sumptuous rooms, artful gardens, sublime views of the lake, and elevated cuisine, Villa d’Este has perfected the Como experience over the villa’s storied history.
Risotto – A Labor of Love
If you’ve ever made risotto, you know it’s a labor of love that usually involves furious, arm-aching stirring. Part of the magic of this risotto recipe from Villa d’Este is that you stir for just 7 minutes. From there, you then let the rice and stock finish cooking in the oven along with the fish. Yes, so you can make risotto and not spend your entire time in the kitchen. Instead, you can enjoy time and aperitifs with your dinner guests.
The risotto recipe calls for zincarlin cheese, a raw cow’s milk (or cow and goat’s milk) cheese. This unique cheese made in the mountains on both sides of the Italian-Swiss border near Lake Como. But if you can’t get hold of any, swap in any another mild, semi-soft cheese.
Risotto with Perch, Watercress & Zincarlin
Recipe adapted from Villa d’Este resort in Lake Como, Italy
Makes 4 servings
1 cup zincarlin cheese
2/3 cup milk
2 ½ cups fresh watercress, steamed
7 cups vegetable broth, divided
8 rectangular pieces of perch filet, about 1 ounce each
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
About 1/3 cup diced white onion
1 ½ cups carnaroli rice
1 tablespoon wild thyme
A little over 1 1/3 cup prosecco or other sparkling wine
½ cup butter, plus more for sautéing
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Create the zincarlin foam.
In a small saucepan, combine the zincarlin cheese and milk. Cook, stirring, until cheese melts and mixture reaches a temperature of 150° F. Transfer to a siphon with a cream charge and keep warm at 130° F.
2. Make the watercress extract.
Blend the watercress with 3 cups of the vegetable broth. Strain the mixture with a fine-mesh strainer, season with salt and pepper to taste, and reserve.
3. Prepare the fish.
Place the perch pieces on a small baking sheet. In a large sauté pan with an ovenproof handle, toast the peppercorns until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer peppercorns to a cutting board, reserving pan. Cool, roughly chop, and press into the tops of the pieces of perch.
5. Time to cook the risotto.
Set an oven to 365° F. Using the reserved pan, sauté the onion in a little bit of butter over medium heat until it’s soft and translucent, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
In the same pan, toast the rice for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 4 cups of vegetable broth and cook for 7 min, stirring frequently.
Add the reserved onion, thyme and prosecco to the risotto.
5. Bake the risotto.
Place the pan with the risotto and the baking sheet with the perch to the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Check to see if done, and bake an additional 5 minutes if needed.
6. Finish the risotto.
Remove pan and tray from oven. Stir butter and cheese into risotto. To serve, divide the risotto into four bowls. Drizzle with watercress extract and top each bowl with two pieces of perch. Decorate with dots of the zincarlin foam and serve immediately.