This is a lovely recipe that can be easily thrown together from ingredients that can be kept in the 'fridge or the cupboard for a good while. I am wholly won over to the oven-method for risotti; I love the therapeutic stirring of a trad risotto but more and more often, especially on a week-night, there are more pressing tasks to attend to than standing over a steamy pot for half an hour. My mascara is grateful, let me tell you!.
'Oven risotto' is very straightforward, and ideal if you have guests too, as the bulk of the work can be gotten out of the way, a dish bunged in the oven and a good time had by everyone (rather than by everyone else, while the cook stirs, cursing, in the kitchen). This risotto alla carbonara feels rather indulgent with its creamy texture and is almost a one-pot meal, though of course you do need hot stock, so if you're using homemade you'll need to heat that in a pan too, soz. I've moved away over recently from my previously much-admired Touch of Taste bouillon liquid to another Knorr product, the oh-so-convenient Stock Pots; these are now my storecupboard emergency stock replacement of choice.
The Black Forest Ham is not, I know, at all authentically Italian, but it eliminates the need to fry pancetta (thus saving on washing up) and gives a wonderfully rounded, smoky flavour Anyway, I tried it once because we had a pack in the 'fridge that needed using up and the rest is, as they don't say but should, merely a matter of geography. As for the cheese rinds, I find that they are a wonderful addition to this kind of risotto. They impart a delicious, deep flavour to the risotto and are very popular with my children, who both love the savoury chewiness of the cooked-down rinds. To this end, whenever I finish a chunk of Parm., I scrub the rind well under hot water, then transfer it to a bag in the top of the freezer set aside for cheese rinds. Just fish out one or two and add them to risotti when you add the stock. They can also be useful in certain soups, but do remember to remove the rind(s) before using the stick-blender. I write from scalded experience...
Risotto alla Carbonara
30g unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped (optional)
300g risotto rice
100ml dry vermouth (or white wine)
200g pack Black Forest Ham, chopped
2 Parmesan cheese rinds, if available (and see above)
1 litre hot stock.
3 eggs, beaten with 100ml double cream and 50g freshly grated Parmesan,
Melt the butter in a large ovenproof casserole and soften the onion and celery. I sometimes add a little chopped garlic at this point, sometimes not. As with so much, food is all about how you feel! When the onion and celery are very soft, tip in the rice and stir to coat in the buttery pan juices. Pour in the vermouth, stir in the chopped ham and pour in the hot stock. Stick the pot in the oven and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 180°. Remove the pan from the oven and vigorously stir in the egg mixture. Cover the pan with a lid and leave for five minutres while you pour a(nother?) drink and finish setting the table or whatever. With risotto, I like a salad and a glass of wine, both crisp, nothing more.