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    Mastering this northern Italian classic can open up a wealth of tasty ideas, such as a simple cheesy supper or an elegant dish with tiger prawns and fennel, writes Tonia George.


    • 1 litre good vegetable stock
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 300g arborio or carnaroli risotto rice
    • 150ml white wine
    • 25g butter
    • 50g Parmesan, grated
    • 50g Fontina, cubed
    • 50g Gorgonzola Piccante, cubed
    • 50g Taleggio, cubed
    • A handful of wild roquette
    • 4 slices parma ham


    1. This dish, a four-cheese risotto, is one of the simplest you can make. The method you follow, right up to the time you add the last four ingredients, can be used as a template for almost any risotto you would care to prepare.
    2. All risotto-making calls for your undivided attention for at least 20 minutes, time in which you feed the rice with stock. You need to use a proper risotto rice, which is rich in starch, to produce the correct creamy consistency. Your risotto will only be as good as your stock, so if you can use homemade, then do.
    3. Begin by simmering the stock in a small pan so it is hot, and will cook the rice quickly and evenly. In a large, heavy-based saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onion over a low heat for 5 minutes until translucent. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute, until coated in the oil. Pour in the wine and let this evaporate. Now add a ladle of stock and stir until it is absorbed. Let the stock simmer gently and ensure the rice does not stick. Add another ladle and do the same, repeating till the rice is al dente (soft on the outside with a bite in the middle). This takes about 18-20 minutes. Judge it by biting a grain of rice, not by the amount of stock in the pan: you may not need it all.
    4. When ready, remove from the heat and beat in the butter and Parmesan - a process known as mantecare to the Italians - along with the other three cheeses. Cover with a lid and rest for 1 minute. Taste and season.
    5. Ladle into bowls and top with a slice of parma ham and a few leaves of peppery roquette.

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    Large, heavy-based saucepan


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