I love all things Italian. Set me down in front of a plate of meatballs in red sauce and I’m wholly satisfied. Plop a bowl of pasta in front of me and I am thrilled. Give me a plate full of creamy, cheesy risotto and I am over the moon.
But I try as much as possible to eat things that are, if not healthy, at least not totally terrible for me. Which means making and eating risotto is something I sadly don’t do as often as I wish I did.
Therefore any excuse to whip one up is blessing, which is why when I came across this recipe in an issue of Food & Wine, I couldn’t resist it. The steel oats have to make it healthy, right? Fewer calories, lots of whole grain goodness…and cheese and butter…yum!
The risotto starts out in a very similar fashion to the traditional rice dish. Sauté minced leeks until tender, then add the grain, toast for a minute before adding liquids. Usually a hefty splash of white wine starts things off, followed by cup after cup of hot stock.
I used the same technique with the steel cut oats, adding the liquid slowly, stirring almost constantly. This helps break down the starches in the grain, ensuring a creamy final product. Cook until the grain is tender which took about 25 minutes, perfect for a week-day dinner.
As a side note, the magazine says you don’t have to stand and stir, you can just add cup after cup, waiting until the liquid is absorbed. But I had nothing better to do, so I stood and stirred.
The only thing that made me hesitant was that even though I cooked this like risotto, it still smelled a bit like…breakfast.
But with the help of some butter and peas, things went from breakfast to dinner in a jiffy. I love peas. If I don’t have a bag of frozen peas in my freezer, I get anxious.
And peas love cheese — especially sharp cheese like Parmesan and pecorino. So once a smattering of pecorino showered down, along with some shaved green onion, things were on their way to being seriously delicious…and oh god, when I say delicious, I mean insanely good. Let me just say. This dinner was the shit. It blew my mind.
I could barely stop eating out of the pot long enough to take this picture.
What made it so great? For me and my friend Oliver, who was over for a little TV marathon, it was the texture. It was creamy just like regular risotto but the oats had a little “pop” to them that’s hard to explain. They weren’t crunchy, they were just different. And it contrasted perfectly with the juicy pop from the peas.
It was so glorious that I hoarded all of the leftovers. And I am not ashamed to admit that. When I make it again, maybe I’ll make extra so I can share. Maybe.