In Italy there's a saying "ottimi vini ma non grandi vini" which translates into "great wines but not big wines" and refers to wines that are elegant and delicate, not too powerful, nor too high in alcohol and unbalanced. Winemaker Michele Bernetti, a friendly and graceful man is the epitome of the type of wine that he makes — full of elegance, liveliness, approachability and balance. His family's winery (since 1959) is Umani Ronchi, with vineyards in the Marche and Abruzzo regions of central eastern Italy, close to the Adriatic Sea. Known for award-winning white Verdicchios and red Montepulcianos, all of their vineyards are farmed organically as they look ahead to preserve the land for future generations. Recently Michele was the host of a seminar and lunch at Eataly in the Flatiron district of NYC where a group of wine writers and others in the wine trade had the pleasure of tasting through a selection of Umani Ronchi wines with the outstanding food of Chef Michael Nogera of Eataly. I was so taken with the creamy texture and lemony, subtly-infused shrimp flavor of the perfectly 'al dente' risotto that I had to ask for the recipe. Michael was kind enough to share the recipe with me by email a few days later and now I'm sharing it with you! And don't worry, this is not a recipe where you'll be standing by the stove, stirring for hours!
6 servings (as an appetizer)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter (split)
2 shallots, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 & 1/2 cups carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups shrimp stock (See recipe to make your own or you can buy bottled fish or clam stock)
salt to taste
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Zest and juice from one lemon
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt to taste
1) Place a sauté pan over medium heat and add olive oil and half the butter. Once the butter is foamy, add the shallots and salt and cook until shallots are translucent being careful not to brown them. Add the rice and sauté for about 4-5 minutes.
2) Deglaze the pan with wine and stir until all of the wine is absorbed. Add the warm stock 4 ounces at a time, stirring constantly until the rice is 95% cooked, about 20 minutes or so. It should be almost "al dente" with a slight resistance in the center when chewed. As you stir rice, add salt to taste.
3) Add shrimp and stir until shrimp is cooked through. Add lemon zest, juice and parsley. Finish with the remaining butter until melted and serve.
Read about the three Umani Ronchi Verdicchios below.
All three of the Verdicchios were well-balanced and tasted great with the risotto. My favorite pairing was with the full-bodied Plenio which was able to stand up perfectly to the rich flavor of the shrimp. The runner-up was the Vecchie Vigne with its roundness on the palate and long finish. The Casal di Serra is an excellent choice if you are in the mood for a lighter style of Verdicchio, wonderfully mineral and fresh. Find these wines in restaurants and wine shops and enjoy them with this dish and many more — pasta, roasted or grilled fish, white meats and cheeses.
- Casal di Serra, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2016 - This bright and fresh wine has a lovely stony minerality from contact with its own yeasts for about five months in stainless steel.
- Vecchie Vigne 2014 - This wine is mouthwatering, a result of its lively acidity. Round bodied and with a long finish, it was a great combination with the creamy risotto. After fermentation, the wine is aged on its own yeasts for about ten months in concrete tanks and is not released for sale until it rests in the bottle for several months.
- Plenio 2014 - I love this complex white wine with multiple layers of flavor. There is a subtle aroma and taste of oak in this very special Verdicchio. 40% of the wine is aged in large oak casks with the remaining 60% aged in stainless steel. Both remain in contact with their own fermentation yeasts before being blended and bottled. Plenio finishes aging six months in the bottle before release. This Verdicchio was my favorite with the rich flavors of the shrimp risotto dish.