Truffle mushroom risotto starring porcini mushrooms ticks all the boxes. Easy to make with affordable, gourmet ingredients like dried porcini & truffle oil.
A visit to the magnificent, Modena market in the Emiglio Romagna region, maybe the greatest of Italy’s food bowls, was the inspiration for this simple dish. There we saw the best array of fresh, porcini mushrooms you could possibly hope to find. Large and attractive to the eye, as well as being meaty, earthy, and with an incredibly rich flavor. Porcini mushrooms are surely the Holy Grail of all mushrooms! If you are visiting Italy, below are some more details about the Modena Market.
There are many porcini mushroom recipes, but I was determined to cook something very special with such great produce. And then it struck me. Why not truffle mushroom risotto? Italy is famous for its truffles, and here I was in the Modena Market. I immediately had fond memories of my previous dining experiences with black truffles.
I have been lucky enough to have fresh truffles twice. Once was because my sister in law won a silent auction with the prize being a special (truffle) degustation dinner party at a well-known, Italian restaurant in Melbourne. I was lucky enough to tag along for the evening.
We had about 8 courses with matched wines. I caught a taxi home! At least 4 of the courses featured fresh truffles, including a black truffle risotto and an ice cream. It was a sublime experience which I have never forgotten. Having freshly, grated truffle on a simple spaghetti or risotto is decadent, there is no other word for it.
The owner of the restaurant spoke to us during the meal. He travels to Italy every year to source and bring back the truffles for his restaurant. All tax deductible I guess. He prefers to do this himself rather than buy them sight unseen.
You often hear people talk about the smell of truffles being like nothing else. Many people claim it is a very sensual smell and indeed this is the reason female pigs are used to sniff the truffles out in oak and other northern hemisphere forests, as truffles contain a significant amount of androstenol (a male pig hormone).
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In Australia and other countries, younger farmers are moving into the production of gourmet foods such as black truffles. However, the truffle industry in Australia is in its infancy and Italian truffles are still highly sought after in Australia and elsewhere.
Fresh Porcini Mushrooms at the Modena Market
Modena is of course famous for its vinegar. But there is more to Modena than vinegar. It contains the usual old, defensive walls so typical of towns and cities in the Emilia Romagna region. Car traffic is restricted within the defensive walls and many thoroughfares are pedestrian only. What a relaxing feeling it is to walk in these areas.
It is a pleasure to just wander around Modena. The old town is full of piazzas, winding streets with beautiful old houses painted rustic colors and sometimes frescoes. Hanging baskets and planter boxes adorn these old houses to soften hard surfaces.
And just like Parma and Bologna, it is paradise for food lovers. The delicatessens, butchers and green grocers at the Modena Market contain products that just cry out to be bought. If you like mushrooms, you will be in heaven here. The prices just knocked my socks off. I would say at least 60% cheaper than what I am used to.
Alas we hunted in vain for truffles. What to do?
Truffle Oil and Dried Porcini make for an Affordable Risotto
Unfortunately it was not yet truffle season in Italy and they are very expensive, so fresh truffles don’t feature in today’s recipe. If, however, you do want to find out what all the hullabaloo is around truffles then using truffle oil (the poor man’s truffle) will give you some sort of appreciation as to whether you want to buy the real thing! Cooking with truffle oil is easy and a mushroom risotto with truffle oil makes this a very acceptable alternative.
The range of mushroom varieties at the Modena Market was truly impressive. Fresh porcini is not common where I come from and they are very expensive. Here in Modena we saw them everywhere. If you are looking for porcini mushroom recipe ideas, consider using them as pizza topping (divine), in risottos, or as toppings with veal (also very common here). Supermarkets and delicatessens carry a large range of bottled porcini, probably a step up from dried porcini.
Although it might be difficult to source fresh porcini mushrooms, dried porcini (when re-hydrated in broth or stock) are more than acceptable.
Sourcing Ingredients for Mushroom Risotto
So, you can make porcini mushroom risotto with truffle oil all year round. For the truffle mushroom risotto, I am using dried porcini, a selection of 2 or 3 types of fresh mushrooms and the truffle oil. Buy some good Parmigiano Reggiano and you are good to go with a restaurant-quality dinner you will be proud of.
And if you want to try real truffle with this dish, go right ahead. Omit the truffle oil and at the table, when everyone is seated, just grate the fresh truffle over the risotto.
Risotto is made using arborio rice, a short grained, high starch content rice originally from Italy. The high starch content helps it to absorb liquid and become creamy, which is what you want in a risotto. Italy is the largest producer of rice in Europe, relying heavily on irrigation for production. Most of Italy’s rice production is arborio. Check at your local supermarket and you should be able to find a good option.
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Easy Truffle Mushroom Risotto with Porcini Mushroom
The ingredients for truffle mushroom risotto might be gourmet, but there is nothing difficult about this dish. In addition to the dried porcini, I like to use at least 3 varieties of fresh mushrooms. Another great development for food-lovers has been the ever-increasing availability of different types of mushrooms. Gourmet varieties like pine mushrooms, shiitakes, oysters, portobellos, Swiss browns and the list goes on.
So, without further ado, here’s the recipe, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.